Ski, snowboard thefts rise in Vail |

Ski, snowboard thefts rise in Vail

Dustin Racioppi
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colo. ” Between 2002 and 2007, Vail police dealt with an average of about 60 ski and snowboard thefts a year. Last year was a much different.

The department reported 83 thefts in 2008, which is, aside from a fluke year in 2002, an alarming number to the officers of Vail.

“We saw that as, ‘Hey, we should look at this closer,'” Bettis said. “Last year, yeah, we were above average. That’s why I think there’s a heightened awareness.”

Vail police are investigating stolen skis and snowboards a little more closely now and will be on the lookout for potential thieves trying to make off with pricey merchandise.

“You’re talking $1,500 to $1,700 for skis and bindings,” Bettis said. “It’s a pretty big deal to a lot of people.”

Bettis said last year’s increase in thefts could be attributed to deviant minds, people not securing their equipment and, surprise, the horrific economy.

“Do I think the economy could have an affect on it? Yes,” Bettis said. “Crime rates are going up. This is just following that same pattern.”

It’s not happening everywhere, though. Aspen has a low amount of thefts, averaging 23 a year. Breckenridge sees a high number of thefts a year, but the department’s public information officer, Kim Green, said in 2008 the numbers actually went down. There were 135 stolen skis and snowboards last year.

The only thing Breckenridge and Vail have in common is the days the items are stolen. In Vail, Saturdays are common for thefts. In Breckenridge it’s Sundays. Both departments said Wednesday also is when a lot of thefts occur.

“Which is very bizarre to me,” Bettis said.

But it’s not surprising that the gear is stolen, both departments agreed. There hasn’t been a real spike in residential or car break-ins to get the equipment ” Green couldn’t think of one all last year. It’s more of a complacency by the ski and snowboard owners who aren’t locking up their stuff, Bettis said.

“Most are happening off racks in front of the gondola. They do happen when people stick their skis in the snow and go off for a couple hours,” he said. “Not a lot of thefts occur if they’re locked in the vehicle.”

Green said nearly all thefts happen when people leave their equipment out in the open, which usually equates to a set of skis or a snowboard practically begging to be lifted.

“Unfortunately, it’s a case of the haves and the have-nots,” she said.

But Vail police have been able to recover some lost items. For equipment that’s registered with the department, Bettis said there’s been a high recovery rate by finding the merchandise on Craig’s List or eBay. And on Jan. 22, officers recovered 10 sets of skis in a local apartment.

“We do return quite a bit,” he said, but added, “It’s extremely challenging ” unless people register their stuff ” it’s hard for us to come across it.”

Bettis strongly encourages skiers and snowboarders to take the few minutes to register their equipment because the thefts may continue at a high rate.

“Be conscience of it because it is happening,” Bettis said. “I anticipate that we will see higher numbers in 2009.”

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