Lorraine Elger loved walking her dogs at Palmer Park in northeast Colorado Springs until her car got broken into and her purse was stolen - in the middle of the day. Unfortunately, Elger is only one of many people who have had their vehicle's burglarized since the weather started warming up, with police reporting that at least 14 car break-ins have been confirmed in the area since Jan. 1.
The last time she saw her purse, it was tucked in between the front seats of her 1997 Dodge Grand Caravan, covered by a plastic bag from a supermarket, Elger said. She had driven from her home on North Murray Boulevard, about three miles away from Palmer Park, to take advantage of mild and sunny weather on March 21.
Elger, 85, said she may have been away from her car for about an hour, which she admitted leaving unlocked, partly because she felt so safe there. When she returned about 12:30 p.m., her door was wide open and her purse was gone, carrying inside all her medications and prescriptions, debit cards, a check book, prescription glasses and her address book.
"I always remembered to bring water for the dogs and their treats. I used to go to the dog park quite a lot," Elger said. "Now I don't even feel like going back again."
The vehicle was parked facing east at the dog park, on the 3600 block of Maizeland Road, beside the trash cans at Palmer Park, according to the police report filed the same day. The burglar entered Elger's minivan through the front passenger door, which had been left unlocked and the window cracked open.
"No force was used in entering the vehicle," the report stated.
According to police records, these types of vehicle break-ins, or "cold burglaries" as they're often referred to by law enforcement, tend to become more common as the weather warms up, particularly by parks and trails.
"As more people get out and enjoy the outdoors, there is an increase in crimes of opportunity," said police spokeswoman Lt. Catherine Buckley. "One of these is breaks to motor vehicles."
At least 14 car burglaries have been reported from Palmer Park since Jan. 1, police records show. In 12 of those cases, the burglars broke one or more of the vehicle's windows to gain access, police said. So far, Elger's was the only vehicle left unlocked, but police warned drivers to be more vigilant and alert, remembering not to leave valuables behind, or keep them out of sight.
"When parking at trailheads or in parking lots, leave your valuables at home," according to a statement released by police. "Sometimes thieves will watch these areas to see if you tuck a purse or briefcase under the seat or lock items in the trunk. Don't leave spare keys in your car and make sure to lock your car."
By the time of this report, more than a month after the burglary, Elger told The Gazette that her purse had not been recovered, but that was not her biggest concern. Even after dealing with calling banks, suspending her cards and requesting new ones, refilling her prescriptions and trying to recuperate all her addresses, it was the emotional damage that stayed with her.
"I really don't know what to think, I was really distraught after it happened," Elger said tearfully. "Hopefully they will catch whoever broke into my car, maybe it's the same person who broke into all those other cars."