January 1, 2005 in Voices

Thieves take flat-screen TVs from several area businesses

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Anyone with information about these or other commercial burglaries should call Crime Check at 456-2233.

It didn’t take long for word of the plasma television thefts to travel among Spokane-area businesses.

The thin-screened televisions have become popular in bars and barber shops around town. And they’re pricey, setting an owner back by more than $2,000 for a small model.

The first to get his was stolen Scotty’s Bar and Grill owner Scott Reckord.

The thieves got a code that allowed them to open a door without setting off the alarms. It’s possible the code came from a former employee, Reckord said.

“It’s hard to trust anybody any more,” Reckord said.

Likely a group of thieves stole three televisions, computer equipment and cash from Scotty’s worth about $15,000 according to police reports. The thieves drank a beer and had boxed up liquor, but left it behind. Reckord said they likely skedaddled when a cook came to open the restaurant.

Scotty’s was the first in a string of more than a dozen burglaries in the Spokane Valley that Spokane detectives think are linked to thieves that targeted expensive flat-screen televisions and automatic teller machines. The thefts started in mid-November and continued until early December, according to police.

Reckord and three other business owners recently gathered at Goodtymes Pub, which was burglarized the day after Thanksgiving, to talk about the thefts. All are struggling to fill out insurance claims and are feeling ignored by law enforcement. Weldon Barber shops, Annie Fannie’s bar and numerous others places were hit.

Jeff and Jill Cogburn, who own Stadium Pizza in north Spokane, were initially told their burglary would not be investigated at all.

“It’s just really frustrating to be so ignored. You want your hand held a little bit,” Jeff Cogburn said.

In the Stadium burglary, two plasma televisions, an ATM machine, $4,000 worth of booze and a Budweiser millennium lit mirror-style sign were stolen, among other things. Police told the Cogburns they shouldn’t expect that the burglary would be investigated. Two car washes the couple own were also broken into recently by thieves in search of quarters.

The Stadium Pizza and the other plasma TV burglaries are being investigated by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office Property Crimes Task Force, said Sgt. Steve Barbieri. Detectives have a person of interest in the plasma television thefts, Barbieri said. The expensive televisions are unique in this area and will be difficult for the thieves to pawn or sell without raising suspicion, said Barbieri.

“I think it’s their priority, and they’re working hard on the case now,” said Deborah Smith, who owns Goodtymes.

Smith said initially detectives didn’t seem interested in her case. Someone broke a window and stole two expensive televisions and a computer. Smith estimates the loss at $20,000. Eventually, there were too many thefts for law enforcement to ignore, Smith said.

“I want my property back, that’s all I want,” Smith said.

Smith and other bar owners are also frustrated that law enforcement agencies spend money on traffic officers, but don’t have time to investigate all the burglaries which happen.

Law enforcement can’t target one type of crime and not the other, said Cpl. Dave Reagan, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office and Spokane Valley Police Department.

“We take property crime just as seriously as we take everything else,” Reagan said.

Police always take a report. If there are fingerprints or other evidence, the police will collect it. If there’s a suspect, law enforcement will investigate, Reagan said. If there are no pursuable leads, not a lot of time will be spent on the case, Reagan said.

“We don’t beat our heads against a wall trying to assign a case where there are no leads,” Reagan said. “That’s frustrating to some victims, but we’re not magicians. We have finite resources. We take cases we think we can solve, and we solve them.”

Often, a case ends up being solved much later. Detectives will serve a search warrant or make an unrelated arrest and get evidence that the person was involved in a past commercial burglary, Reagan said.

Reckord, the Cogburns and Smith said they just want the stolen stuff returned to them.

“I like to have hope. That’s all we can do,” Smith said.

“My hope has been a little shattered,” Jill Cogburn said.


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