The Norman Transcript

April 10, 2013

Vehicle break-ins plague area gym

By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — After several “smash and grab” car break-ins this month, gym-goers may want to take extra precautions when going to work out.

The Health Club’s parking lot in west Norman was recently hit and, in many cases, female’s cars were targeted.

“Each one of these that’s happened, their (the females’) purses are always in the front seat,” said Kellie Riggs, the Health Club’s office manager.

In the most recent car break-in that occurred Monday, a lunchbag that looked like a purse was left in the front seat, Riggs said.

Earlier this month, a college student paid the price. While attending an early morning Zumba class at the gym, the master’s degree candidate’s car window was smashed and her purse and phone were taken, said her father, Victor Rook.

Rook said when his daughter got out of the class, she called the bank and found out that her cards had already been charged at Walmart, Lowes and a few other stores.

However, they thought they’d be able to catch the culprit because she had parked near a security camera. They later found out that didn’t matter because they were told the cameras didn’t work.

“I’m a bit frustrated,” Victor Rook said.

Riggs said the Health Club is owned by Norman Regional Hospital and the hospital is the one that operates and monitors the cameras.

Riggs also said police can get footage from the hospital’s cameras.

In addition, the groundskeeper at the Health Club has been contacted and “he’s keeping his eye out, too,” Riggs said.

Monday’s “smash and grab” was the fourth one to happen in the past year. During a past incident, Riggs said the thieves were at Target within 10 minutes, racking up charges on a stolen credit card.

“It’s almost like it’s a team,” Riggs said. “They’re waiting or something because they were at Target pretty fast.”

Riggs also said police have told them several times that gyms and fitness centers are hit all over Norman and Oklahoma City.

Norman Police Capt. Tom Easley said the break-ins not only occur in parking lots at businesses but also in apartment complexes and neighborhoods.

“If you don’t want it stolen, don’t leave it in your car,” Easley said. “A car is not a secure place to keep property.”

Even if you lock your car, it only takes a half of a second or so to break into it and grab items in the interior of the car, he said. If anything, it’s best to put items you want unseen in the trunk.

“It’s generally more or less a crime of opportunity,” he said.

Another thing to remember is to lock your car. Easley said it seems that a lot of thefts from vehicles involve unlocked car doors.

Jessica Bruha

366-3540

jbruha@normantranscript.com

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