Car break-ins reported at gym parking lots

Police are now using special flyers as warnings

WEST DES MOINES - A string of car break-ins have been reported in West Des Moines in just the past few weeks.

Police say burglars are targeting fitness center parking lots. But now, police are hoping to prevent these thefts -- all by using a little piece of paper.

Sarah Long of West Des Moines says she is one of the victims of these burglaries. She says earlier this month someone broke into her car while she was working out -- something she never expected to happen during a trip to the gym.

 "The window was busted open and my purse was gone and it was not a very good day," Long said.

Long is worried about all her stolen belongings, but it is the priceless items that makes this crime even more devastating.

"I think out of everything in that purse, you know [the suspect] got about 20 dollars worth of actual stuff, but that stuff was pretty irreplaceable to me," Long said.

Because people often leave their wallets and purses in plain sight when they go to the gym, West Des Moines Police are now stepping in with a new campaign to prevent that. Officers are now patrolling gym parking lots in the area. They say try to think like a burglar and look for cars that could be targeted. They will then flag those cars with special flyers as a warning.

"In the past two months we've had thirteen in our fitness facilities which is fairly unusual for West Des Moines," said Sgt. Adam Porath with the West Des Moines Police Department. "So we are trying to take proactive enforcement and have the public help us to stop these kinds of crimes."

The flyer states three simple tips: Lock you car, take your keys and hide your belongings.

"The hope is that they'll read that, they'll take it seriously and the next time that they park their car, they will hide their valuables," Sgt. Porath said.

Local gyms say there is only so much they can do to watch for burglars, so they are happy the police are helping out.

"If I see something and I recognize the car, then I'll say something to that person like hey you left your wallet on the dashboard, I've had to say that a couple of times," said Mario Price, Operations Manager at Gold's Gym in West Des Moines. "This campaign is a great idea. Make sure to take care of your own property so that you don't have to worry about it being stolen when you work out."

Local 5 asked people going to the gym: how do you protect your belongings?

"I have some hidden compartments in my vehicle where anything that's valuable, if I'm not taking it in with me, it goes in there right before I go into the gym and I make sure to lock it every time I go in as well," said Andy Kroeger of Des Moines.

"I typically either don't bring my purse with me or I'll lock it in my trunk to be safe," said Nicole Stevens of West Des Moines.

Long says she will follow suit and will now be more careful.

"I'm either putting it in my trunk or putting it under the seat or just covering it up with a whole lot of stuff," Long said. "So, if they're going to try to get into my car again, they're going to have to work for it."

Police say no arrests have been made in any of these burglary cases so far - and they are not sure if they are connected. Police also say they have not seen any more break-ins since putting up their flyers.

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