WESTFIELD, Ind. – Police are investigating a string of car break-ins at a fitness club in Westfield.
The warning first came from a Facebook post by a Hamilton County woman. “I was at LA Fitness (Friday) and my car along with another had the window smashed in and our purses taken,” the woman wrote. “Keep your eyes up and learn from me.”
That’s just what clients are doing at the LA Fitness center on East 146th Street in Westfield.
“There’s a lot of folks, especially up here on the north side, who drive nice cars and don’t always carry their stuff in so it doesn’t surprise me that someone might target the area,” said Clay Daugherty, a member at the fitness club. “People are usually working out for 45 minutes to an hour, there are classes that are posted so you know when there are a lot of folks coming in, you know when they’re going to be here.”
The break-in at the fitness center mirrors the car burglary technique pioneered by the Felony Lane Gang of Florida.
Since 2012, authorities estimated crews using the Felony Lane Gang style have cost banks and their customers $23 million by stealing bank cards and cleaning out checking and savings accounts before being caught.
Typically, crew leaders utilize local prostitutes and drug addicts to watch parking lots of businesses, including day care centers, where customers, especially, might be inclined to leave their valuables behind.
Fishers Police arrested four people, three of them Florida men, for breaking into cars and attempting to fraudulently cash checks.
The leader of that crew received a six year prison sentence.
“I’m sure a mom with her valuables would try to take less stuff inside because it’s less cumbersome, especially with a kid. For me, a lot of the bigger guys in here, I’m sure we’re a smaller target because a thief is not going to want to have a fight or anything like that,” said Michael Devore. “I always just take a quick glance in the parking lot to make sure there’s nothing suspicious in the parking lot just as a habit. I always take a gym bag in with me and probably recommend most people do that just for that reason.”
LA Fitness has signs posted in its parking lots, lockers inside to secure wallets, keys and cell phones, and surveillance cameras which captured video of last Friday’s thieves.
“I’ve seen some police officers patrol the parking lot from time to time. Obviously a bigger presence would be better,” said Daugherty. “My personal opinion is: its personal accountability. If people didn’t leave things in their cars, if they were more thoughtful about that, if there’s no supply, there’s no demand.”