Aspen Thrift Shop: ‘We’re watching’ |

Aspen Thrift Shop: ‘We’re watching’

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Security cameras installed behind the Thrift Shop of Aspen have helped the charitable operation nab one thief and scare a few others.

High-tech surveillance cameras were installed late last year in the alley behind the Hopkins Avenue store, where goods dropped off after hours have been the target of thievery and illegal dumping is a continual problem.

Several shop volunteers are able to keep tabs on what the cameras “see” via their home computers, and they are watching. In addition, the footage is stored for later review.

The security system helped capture one culprit who carted off items from the alley drop-off spot repeatedly, according to shop volunteer Margaret Simmons.

“He was taking clothes by the armload early in the morning,” she said.

Police delivered a warning to the thief, though he was not cited, according to Simmons.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, shop co-presidents Patti Stranahan and Diane Wallace were watching the alleyway from their respective home computers while they talked on the phone. Two guys appeared on their screens, apparently intent on rifling through donations and helping themselves, according to Stranahan.

The system is outfitted with a microphone, and Stranahan barked into it, warning them to leave the items alone. They jumped, left the scene, returned and got a second scolding, according to Stranahan.

“They were looking around like, ‘Whoa,'” she said. “We are watching.”

A siren also can be activated and has been used to good effect on a would-be thief, according to Simmons.

Illegal dumping, of items such as televisions, mattresses and appliances, also has been observed, though the activity has yet to result in police intervention. Such donations are hauled to the landfill for disposal – at the Thrift Shop’s expense.

The shop is a strictly volunteer effort. Proceeds from the sale of donated items are all donated to area nonprofits, amounting to roughly $500,000 annually.

Thefts and unnecessary expenses hit the Thrift Shop’s mission, Simmons said.

“They tend to take the nicest stuff we have back there, and that costs us. That’s stuff we then can’t sell,” she said.

“It’s just such a slap in the face for everyone,” Stranahan said.

She advises donors to bring their goods to the shop during operating hours – 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday, plus 4 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays.