Vail Police following lead on burglaries
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – A string of burglaries in Vail Village has left the Vail Police Department on the lookout for a suspect whom officers believe they are close to catching.
Vail Police Detective Sgt. Chris Botkins said the series of burglaries date back to as early as July 1. While no arrests have been made, Botkins said detectives are following a “really good lead.”
“We’re hoping this is the person, but at this point we’re not 100 percent,” Botkins said.
The suspect, presumed to be the same man in all of the Vail Village business robberies, is described as 5 feet 11 inches to 6 feet 1 inch and weighing between 150 to 180 pounds. Botkins said the lead police officers are investigating points toward a longtime local man.
On Dec. 13, a video surveillance camera at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards captured images of a man who both the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and the Vail Police Department believe to be the same man suspected in the Vail burglaries.
“The suspect caught on tape at both the Vail and Edwards burglaries are similar in appearance, which is why we think they are the same person,” said Eagle County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Shannon Cordingly. “We don’t have any new information on our investigation to release at this time.”
The man in the Colorado Mountain College video was wearing dark-colored clothing and a ski mask. He also carried a backpack and some kind of pry tool in his hand, possibly a “cat’s paw.”
The man was also caught on video surveillance at The Red Lion, although the quality of the images are very poor, Botkins said.
In Vail, the incidents are a sore subject for many involved. Locations hit include the Dobson Ice Arena, Up the Creek restaurant, The Red Lion, Vendetta’s Italian Restaurant and Axel’s, a retail store.
Mike Ortiz, executive director of the Vail Recreation District, wouldn’t comment on the two burglaries that have taken place at Dobson. Ortiz did say the district was looking into adding various security measures.
Botkins said the burglar gained entry into Dobson through a door with a faulty lock. The door was easily pried open, and police believe the suspect knew exactly which door to look for in order to gain entry. Police think the man gained entry through the same faulty door in both burglaries, which were about a month apart.
“We think there’s a certain amount of scouting going on beforehand,” Botkins said.
Vail Police officers have responded to calls from local businesses in which employees believe they saw potential suspects “casing the place,” Botkins said.
All of the burglaries have happened after business hours, typically in the middle of the night and early morning hours. In several instances the burglar has pried open windows or has found unlocked windows or faulty doors, Botkins said.
“Everything that has been hit so far in Vail has been unoccupied businesses,” Botkins said. “One of the issues we’re running into is that most of the businesses don’t have alarms or surveillance.”
The Red Lion, on Bridge Street, was hit back in early November. Owner Phil Long wouldn’t comment on the incident, only saying The Red Lion has “definitely responded” in terms of added security measures.
The Vail Police Department has also responded, with increased patrols throughout town with both uniformed and undercover officers, Botkins said.
“We’re doing both of those things and will continue to do so,” he said.
Botkins said police still aren’t sure how much money was stolen out of the ATM machine at the Dobson Ice Arena in the most recent incident, but police believe the suspect has gotten away with as much as $7,000 from all of the burglaries combined, not including the damage he has caused at many of the locations that were hit.
Botkins said businesses can try to deter burglars by installing something as simple as an audible alarm that is motion-activated. Video surveillance systems are also fairly inexpensive to get up and running, he said.
The simplest thing for businesses, however, is to just make sure there’s no money left inside at the end of the night.
“If the burglar strikes and there’s nothing to be taken, he’s going to move on,” Botkins said.
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com.
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