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Second big theft reported

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

A second Main Street store has suffered a high-dollar theft, the Park City Police Department reports, leaving investigators wondering if the two cases, the first at a jewelry store and the most recent at a fur seller, are related.

According to Rick Ryan, a Police Department lieutenant, Alaska Fur Gallery, 537 Main St., reported on Dec. 12 a full-length Russian lynx fur coat was taken. The coat, which is 52 inches long, has a retail value of $40,000, Ryan says.

Ryan says the coat was taken sometime between Dec. 9 and Dec. 12 and the store told the police it was likely swiped on Dec. 9. Ryan says the apparent delay in reporting the case makes it difficult for the police.

"We don’t have a suspect. We don’t have any information at this time," Ryan says, noting the delay. "That makes it even tougher for us."

Ryan says the fur store did not have a surveillance system when the coat was taken but has since installed one.

A staffer at the fur seller says two coats were taken. The other is made of beaver fur. Ryan says the police report shows only one was taken.

Ryan says a new employee at the fur store on Dec. 12 asked to see a Russian lynx fur coat after the store’s inventory showed one was in stock. The store then discovered that the coat was missing. It was last seen on Dec. 9, Ryan says.

"The store was very busy that day with lots of customers," Ryan says about Dec. 9.

Ryan says fur-coat thefts are "not real unusual" on Main Street.

"People look at it as a fairly easy target," he says.

The coat disappeared about two weeks after someone stole expensive watches from O.C. Tanner, a Main Street jewelry store. The seven ritzy watches have a combined retail value of $106,500 and the police believe that the O.C. Tanner case is the costliest theft in Park City’s history.

In the theft of the watches, the police say it is likely that the thieves carried out a planned operation. Two couples are of interest to the police in the O.C. Tanner case. The police say one couple entered the store, spoke with a saleswoman and was followed by another couple.

The second couple left the store before being helped and the first two people quickly left after the other two walked out, the police say. The investigators say that the first couple were decoys and distracted the clerk as the second couple took the watches.

Ryan says the police are not sure if the two cases are connected.

"I honestly don’t know. We don’t have the same pattern we have at O.C. Tanner. (That) doesn’t mean it didn’t happen," he says.

With a few days remaining in the holiday shopping season, the authorities urge merchants to monitor their goods. Ryan says expensive merchandise should not be displayed near the door. That, he says, ensures salespeople talk to people as they approach the expensive goods.

"Any merchandise, particularly of high value, I believe they should keep as far away from the entrance of the store as possible," Ryan says.

He urges merchants to install surveillance systems, which he says start at between $4,000 and $5,000. He says posting a sign indicating the store has a surveillance system even if it does not could thwart thieves.

"I think they’re a pretty significant deterrence. If they’re not a deterrence, they’re good to capture a suspect on film," he says about security cameras.

Ryan says there has not been a significant uptick in thefts on Main Street but says some stores there stock expensive merchandise, resulting in the big losses at the fur seller and the jewelry store.

The Police Department posts officers on Main Street regularly, including conducting foot patrols. Ryan says between two and four officers are on the street during the ski season.

The police also meet with merchants a few times each year to talk to them about combating thieves.

Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds, meanwhile, says merchants and store staffers should be aware of people who seem "overly concerned" or are asking "stupid" questions about merchandise. They could be planning a theft and trying to distract workers.

"They might argue about a price tag on an article of clothing," Edmunds says.

He says the Tanger Outlet Center and Redstone Towne Center are targets for thieves and claims organized shoplifting rings operate in the Park City area. December is a big month for shoplifters, he says.

"They will have multiple people involved with these," Edmunds says. "Seldom is it a one-person operation."


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