Fort Collins trail thefts and vehicle burglaries increase in summer


Enjoying a hike at Horsetooth Rock, a day at the park, or a workout at your gym could mean your vehicle is an easy target. for thieves this summer.

Thefts from vehicles parked at trailheads, parks, open spaces, and even gymnasiums are common year-round, but increase in the summer months as more people get out to enjoy the outdoors said the Fort Collins police corporal. said Dustin Wier. Vehicles left in these places are easier targets because owners will be away for a while, whether they’re hiking, enjoying a playground, or working out.

At the county level, this peak occurs from May through October, with thefts occurring at various locations throughout the county, Larimer County Natural Resources Communications Supervisor Korrie Johnston said in an email.

“Don’t assume you’re immune,” Johnston said.

Remembering Kahuna:Famous Rocky Mountain National Park elk Kahuna to be commemorated with life-size statue

Marianna Inslee of Fort Collins cools off after her hike to the Soderberg Trailhead in Horsetooth Mountain Open Space on Thursday.

Johnston said his car was broken into at a trailhead several years ago. After a short outing, she returned to find that her car window had been smashed, her purse under her seat was missing, and a charge had already been made to her credit card.

“I naively thought, ‘No one is looking at me or my car, this could never happen to me. I’m just gonna be out for a little hour,'” Johnston said. “I’ve never parked at a trailhead the same way.”

Typically, Wier said, thefts from vehicles happen overnight and usually because cars are left unlocked and most or all of the valuables in the vehicle are stolen. But vehicular break-ins at trailheads and in parks are generally different. In these robberies, Wier said police typically see:

  • The car windows are broken or the locks blown.
  • Purses and wallets are stolen, or sometimes only credit cards and cash are taken.
  • Other valuables are forgotten.

After taking the credit cards, suspects often go straight to stores like Target, Walmart and King Soopers to buy as many gift cards as they can, Wier said. Since the victims are on a hike or away from their car, this can happen before a person even notices that their cards have been stolen.

Thieves can use covert tactics to delay their discovery, Wier said, such as popping car door locks instead of breaking windows or taking only credit cards but leaving purses, wallets behind. and other valuables.

Memorial Day weekend:What to know before camping or boating on public lands in Larimer County

How the police deter thieves (and the challenges they face)

Police are trying to be proactive in deterring such thefts, Wier said. The Fort Collins Police Department tracks reported vehicle intrusions in these highly targeted areas and uses this data to identify where they should add patrols. Police are also conducting covert surveillance and will place mounted game cameras or other live cameras in parking areas to obtain video of suspects and license plate numbers, Wier said.

Officers also visit stores where stolen credit cards are commonly used and educate employees on what to look for and how to report suspicious activity to police, Wier said.

Cars parked at the Soderberg trailhead in the Horsetooth Mountain open space are pictured Thursday.

Johnston said the Department of Natural Resources had considered placing cameras in day-use areas and at trailheads, but it would be costly to do so in dozens of locations across the county. There are cameras in high-traffic areas — Horsetooth Reservoir South Bay, Devil’s Backbone, Carter Lake Marina, and Horsetooth Mountain — but they’re used to notify visitors of parking availability, not for surveillance.

Even with tactics like surveillance and education, Wier said it’s often difficult for police to arrest the perpetrators of these thefts.

“A lot of times we see a lot of people committing these crimes on trails, parks and open spaces, they’re not local to Fort Collins and they’re often part of larger networks that are organized and travel around the country” , Wier said.

Crime:Man sentenced to life in prison after Link Lane’s murder; defense calls sentence unfair

Wier said these organized groups target communities near highways, travel to cities to carry out these thefts, and travel to another city, often before police are called. They usually work in groups, with someone standing watch while others sit in parked cars on the grounds, waiting for someone to start their trek. They are usually found in rental cars with stolen license plates, which makes the vehicles difficult to track, Wier said.

Police resources to investigate these thefts are limited because the crime — first-degree criminal trespass — was recently upgraded from a felony to a misdemeanor, Wier said, and police tend to focus their resources on crime investigations.

Knowing that these groups often target multiple cities and counties, Wier said the best way to identify these thieves is to work with law enforcement in other jurisdictions to share evidence and information. Wier said this strategy has helped Fort Collins police apprehend suspects tied to similar cases in other jurisdictions and connect suspects arrested for similar crimes outside of Fort Collins to unsolved robberies here. .

City news:Fort Collins wants your ideas for its 2023-24 municipal budget

Tips to prevent your car from being broken into at a trailhead or in a park

  • Lock your doors.
  • Keep valuables completely out of your vehicle, or at least out of sight (like in your trunk or glove compartment).
  • Take your wallet or cards with you when you leave your vehicle.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and watch for suspicious activity.
  • Call 911 if you see a robbery in progress or the Fort Collins police non-emergency number, 970-419-3273, if you see anything suspicious or need to report a robbery that has occurred.
Fort Collins' Joe Linstedt loads his bike after his ride at the Soderberg Trailhead in the Horsetooth Mountain Open Space on Thursday.

Sady Swanson covers public safety, criminal justice, Larimer County government and more in northern Colorado. You can send your story ideas to him at [email protected] or on Twitter at @sadyswan. Support his work and that of other Colorado journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.


Comments are closed.