Car break-ins beset Glenwood

Ryan Graff

The last thing Phil Nyland expected to find last week was a draft and snow inside the cab of his truck.Nyland spent an hour working out at the Glenwood Springs Community Center and walked out to his truck about 8 p.m. The truck’s cab was unusually cold and drafty. Nyland said he thought:”I must have left my window down.”But he hadn’t; his truck had been burglarized, the window broken.”It’s one of those things where it takes you a second to realize what’s going on,” he said. Nyland was one of many last week who suffered a vehicle break-in, and one of three whose car was broken into at the Community Center. Glenwood Springs police responded to three vehicle break-in calls at the Community Center, two at Glenwood Medical Associates, one at the Seventh Street city parking lot, and one at Gart Sports, according to police reports. Glenwood Springs isn’t the only city to see a number of vehicle break-ins recently. The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office responded to three vehicle break-ins on Dec. 31 at the Parachute Park and Ride, and one near Rifle. Though police reports seem to indicate a rash of vehicle break-ins recently, area law-enforcement officials disagree on whether the recent break-ins are anything out of the ordinary. “We tend to go through that this time of year,” Glenwood Springs Police Lt. Bill Kimminau said.Kimminau said that around the holidays the department tends to see more break-ins than usual because vacationers and locals have valuables in their cars. Locals leave gifts and vacationers leave skis and other items. “We had that run; other than that not too many … We haven’t had any more than we normally would.”Tim Templon, Garfield County undersheriff, had a different thought. “We’ve definitely been getting hit lately,” he said. “Towards the end of the year here we’ve been hit with quite a lot of burglaries, too.”Determining whether Glenwood Springs and Garfield County have had an unusual number of vehicle break-ins recently is difficult for a variety of reasons. One is that neither the city nor the county have a specific charge of vehicle break-in. Instead they charge people with crimes that are committed while a person breaks into a car, such as criminal mischief, first-degree criminal trespass and theft.Another reason getting real numbers is the lag time between when a crime is committed and when it is recorded. In both December 2003 and 2004 Glenwood Springs reported 14 criminal trespass cases. From Jan. 1, to Jan. 7, 2003 Glenwood Springs reported 5 criminal trespasses, compared to 7 for the same time this year. The Garfield County Sheriff’s office didn’t have year-to-date numbers available, but did see an increase from December2003 to 2004. In 2003 there were 11 vehicle break-ins, and in 2004 there were 17. “It seems like it went up,” said Undersheriff Templon. “Who knows what the reason is – it could be the economy, it could be methamphetamine,” he said.Street officers are seeing more methamphetamine, he said, and it would make logical sense that people who are using the drug may steal to support their habit. Whatever the reason for the break-in, people who are victims of a vehicle break-in are typically out of luck. If the break-in is a singular event, Kimminau said, “there’s not a whole lot that can be done.”But “if it is somebody local we’ll catch up to them eventually,” he said. Residents can take precautions to lessen their chance of becoming a victim. People should lock their cars, Kimminau said. Most of Glenwood Springs’ theft from vehicles occur when doors or windows are left open. People should also take valuables with them when they leave, he said, so would-be thieves aren’t tempted to smash a window or open an unlocked door. That advice comes too late for Nyland, who lost $690 in valuables when his window was smashed – including his cell phone, stereo face plate, down coat, head lamp, day planner and work bag. Nyland doesn’t know of anyone who saw the thieves, but said it looked like they chose his truck out of a full parking lot. “In the snow we could see how these people walked and it looks like they cased out a couple of cars,” he said. Fortunately, Nyland had some luck in recovering his belongings. The thieves apparently threw his work bag out at the 7th Street bridge near the Farnum Holt Funeral Home. A man found Nyland’s work bag, tracked Nyland down through his work cell phone, and returned what was left in the pack. “I tried to give (him) some money,” said Nyland, “and he said, ‘No, I don’t take money.””

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