The return of the jewel thieves
Aspen Times Weekly
It’s one thing to waltz out of an Aspen jewelry shop after stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of jewelry and something else to pull it off it again and again.
Amazingly, one group of thieves has earned the attention of both local law enforcement and the FBI for stealing diamond-encrusted bracelets, rings and watches from local jewelry shops on numerous occasions.
The thieves allegedly stole an antique clock worth more than $100,000 from McHugh Antiques on East Cooper Avenue on Dec. 1, and about $500,000 in jewelry from Buccellati, an East Hopkins Avenue store, on Dec. 18. In 2006, police say, the same group hit Meridian Jewelers on East Cooper Avenue as well as stores in Breckenridge and Vail.
According to police reports, five people were involved in the thefts. Three would enter the store first and show great interest in a piece. Two would then enter while the clerk was basically pinned in the back of the store by the other three. The two would open a case and take as much as possible, then leave, sometimes without the clerk having known what happened.
Police have been trying to get positive identification of the thieves through the use of high-quality video images taken during the heists and international crime computers, though law enforcement is tight-lipped about new developments, if any.
The crimes caused jewelry shops to band together with a phone tree to pass along information in the case of additional thefts or suspicious people entering stores.
Apparently Aspen is part of a much larger trend. Thefts from jewelry stores increased nationally more than 15 percent in 2006, according to the Jewelers Security Alliance, to 1,267 criminal events. The dollar loss from those thefts totaled $73.3 million last year.
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There is a lot of pent up energy among hikers and bikers to get into the high country, but snow fields, avalanche debris and high stream crossings are presenting challenges later than usual. Forest rangers with the Aspen-Sopris District provide trail condition reports that are updated each week so hikers and backpackers aren’t caught unaware.