WALDO CANYON FIRE: More than 30 homes burglarized in evacuated areas

July 11, 2012
photo - The view from the bluff at Pine Cliffs on Sunday, July 1, 2012. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett) Photo by
The view from the bluff at Pine Cliffs on Sunday, July 1, 2012. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett) Photo by  

Colorado Springs police have confirmed 37 burglaries at homes in evacuated areas during the Waldo Canyon fire — crimes that outraged the community and led to an anonymous donation of a $50,000 reward for information on the crimes.

In a release Wednesday, police said the total reflects crimes from June 23, the day the fire began, until July 3.

Police also tallied 28 break-ins of vehicles belonging to evacuees, most outside or area hotels where people forced from their homes sought refuge. The vehicle break-ins were from June 23 to July 4.

Some homeowners in the Pinon Valley neighborhood told The Gazette that not only had their homes been burglarized, they also were heavily vandalized.

Karin White said burglars smashed antiques given to her by her grandmother, turned over bookcases, smashed pictures on the wall, opened and emptied every drawer of every piece of furniture and threw the contents of her refrigerator and freezer on her dining room floor.

Her neighbors, Debbie and Brian Vitulli, said thieves broke a picture window at their house to get in and took jewelry. But the damage they left behind was the worst part — couches were sliced by knives and their children’s artwork was torn up.

Two people were arrested June 28 in connection with at least one burglary at an evacuee’s home. Belinda Wells-Yates, 38, and Shane Garrett, 36, were charged this week and could face enhanced penalties on charges alleging they are habitual criminals.

The $50,000 reward was offered July 5. To be eligible for it, information on these crimes must be phoned in to 385-2222. Callers must leave a name and contact number.

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