Trailhead burglaries not uncommon, police say
As hiking season starts, police warns people not to leave valuables in their cars
By Veronica Whitney
Daily Staff Writer
When Kim Anderson went hiking near Minturn a few years ago, she said, she didn’t expect to come back to a car with a shattered window and wallets stolen. But it happened.
Burglars broke into her car, which was parked at a trailhead, and took her wallet and $100 inside, Anderson said.
“I got robbed when I lived in Chicago, but I never expected to be robbed here, especially at a trailhead,” said Anderson, 35, of Wildridge. “You don’t think about it, but it happens.”
Last Sunday, hikers at the West Lake Creek trail went through the same experience when their cars were broken into. According to police reports, two cars were broken into Sunday afternoon at the West Lake Creek trailhead parking. The purses of the owners were stolen.
Kim Andree, a spokeswoman for the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, said burglars sometimes target trailhead parking areas where people are gone for hours and sometimes days.
“There’s a bigger opportunity to attack vehicles at a trailhead area where there’s concealment,” Andree said. “We’ve had as many as 15 break-ins in one place over a two-week period.
“Last year, was a quiet year,” she added. “But it’s still important to be careful seeing what happened last weekend.”
Along with the burglaries at West Lake Creek Sunday, three break ins – all at Camp Hale – had been reported to the Sheriff’s office since last April, Andree said.
“It’s a summer thing,” Andree said. “But some years ago there were some burglaries at the Beaver Creek east parking lot.”
Leonard Valdez, a deputy with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office who responded to the two dispatch calls on Sunday, said there isn’t one specific trailhead where more break-ins occur.
“It’s countywide,” he said.
The Sheriff’s Office has done sting operations at the trailheads in response to the break-ins, Andree said
“We’ve loaded a car with bait and with a surveillance system set to trigger when movement happens,” she said. “We have arrested several people in the past by doing a good investigation. Punishment is pretty extensive for those convicted.”
The charges for breaking into a car and stealing something from it include first degree criminal trespassing – a class 5 felony that can carry up to four years in prison and up to a $100,000 fine – and theft, a class 4 felony, that carries a maximum prison time of eight years and a maximum fine of $500,000.
“We’re a changing valley,” Andree said. “As we continue to grow as a community, crime will continue to rise equally by size and number unless we as community take away the opportunity.”
To make hikers aware, the Sheriff’s Office is considering putting warning signs at the trailheads, Andree said.
“Trailheads are in U.S. Forest Service property, so we’d need their permission,” Andree said. Don Dressler, with the Forest Service, said if the Sheriff’s Office bought the signs, they would put them up.
Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are simple things to do to prevent trailhead burglaries and other vehicle break-ins, authorities say. Those include:
– Don’t take valuables on a hike.
– When hiking with other people, drive one car to the trailhead.
– Close garage doors.
– Lock car doors at night.
– Don’t leave car running when you run in a store.