The town of Dolores started the year with several vehicle break-ins and other thefts.
Two burglaries were reported in early January, and several items were stolen out of vehicles on the night of Jan. 15.
Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin believes all the vehicle break-ins were committed by one group of juveniles. He also said the crimes should serve as a reminder to town residents of the importance of basic safety precautions.
“Take the valuables out of your car, lock your car and take your keys, please,” he said. “That will just stop so much of it. If there’s nothing there to take, they won’t enter your car.”
Deputies have made arrests in both burglary cases, including out-of-town suspect Ryan Versaw, who allegedly left a four-page letter identifying himself at the scene of the crime on Jan. 6. The suspect in the other case, reported on Jan. 16, was a renter who allegedly stole several appliances and items of furniture from a landlord’s property, most of which were returned to the owner.
While it’s somewhat unusual for Dolores to get two burglaries in one month, Nowlin said there was nothing too unusual about the crimes themselves. The sheriff said most burglaries in the area are committed by people who know the property owners and where they keep their valuables, like the renter, or transients in need of a place to sleep, like Versaw.
While Nowlin said the two burglaries were unconnected, all the vehicle break-ins were reported on the same day and occurred within the same three-block area.
Two rifles were reported stolen out of a vehicle in the 200 block of Central Avenue, and four vehicles in the 300 block of Riverside Avenue, across Colorado Highway 145, were also broken into. The stolen items included hunting knives, cell phone chargers and other gadgets, all worth less than $500. A $200 security camera at the liquor store was also damaged when the thieves tried unsuccessfully to break in.
Nowlin said video surveillance from outside the nearby Dolores Liquor store indicates all the crimes were probably committed on the same night. All the vehicles were unlocked at the time of the thefts.
Nowlin said the current suspects are juveniles who were staying in Dolores the night of the thefts. The case remains under investigation, but he expects it to be closed this week.
Thefts of firearms are considered more serious than other thefts, Nowlin said, because there’s always a chance they will be used to commit a violent crime.. But he’s optimistic the stolen rifles will turn up within the county soon.
Burglaries and thefts, especially in a small town like Dolores, are fairly easy to solve, Nowlin said. Because most burglars in Montezuma County know their victims, they can be tracked down quickly, as was the case with the January thefts.
But the sheriff’s office doesn’t have enough deputies to do regular prevention patrols yet, so Nowlin said it’s up to county residents to secure their belongings.
“The days of leaving our doors open or unlocked in our homes, and leaving our cars unlocked and running, are over,” he said. “Just pay attention and be a good neighbor ... if you see something suspicious, call us.”
But Nowlin did say he hopes some of the department’s new innovations, like the mounted patrol in Dolores, will help cut down on property crime.
“Nobody’s looking for a deputy on a horse,” he said.