Stolen puffer vehicles being used in recent burglaries of Highlands businesses in northwest Denver

Police: Leave cash registers empty and open

DENVER - Businesses in the Highlands neighborhood of Denver are being warned not to have anything of value visible from the street.

Multiple businesses have been burglarized since the holidays, with the thieves targeting cash registers, alcohol and flat screen televisions.

"We got robbed last Sunday and they took our cash registers," said Jocelyn Castillo, an employee at Menchie's Frozen Yogurt. "The only way we can do business is by cash only."

The burglars who hit the Menchie's at 32nd Avenue and Clay Street, kicked in the front door and smashed the window. They stole two cash registers, but the registers had no cash.

"We usually keep used coupons in there," said Castillo. "They just took the cash register with used coupons."

Because of the stolen registers, employees had to do all the cash transactions by hand. First, they weighed the yogurt purchases, then they calculated the per-ounce cost and tax using a calculator.

The only money the burglars got away with was from a donation jar for a foundation for the blind.

"That had change in there; loose change. There was about $2 I think, and they took it," said Castillo. "I feel pretty bad because it's for people in need."

Police arrested at least one of the burglars responsible for the Menchie's burglary, but not everyone involved. Down the street from Menchie's, a bicycle shop still has a boarded up front door.

"The best way to prevent this type of crime is to remove the cash from your register and then leave that cash register drawer open," said Denver Police Commander Paul Pazen. "They're less likely to break that window and disrupt these businesses operations."

On Tuesday night, police arrested three suspected burglars in what turned out to be a stolen puffer car. The vehicle had been previously reported stolen after being left warming up unattended. Police also caught another burglary in progress, but they did not pursue those burglars after they jumped into another stolen puffer vehicle.

"Our officers did the right thing and followed our policies and procedures in not pursuing this vehicle that was involved in a property crime and thus creating a greater danger to the general public," said Pazen.

"Do you believe if the cars hadn't been stolen because they were puffing, these crimes would not have happened?" asked 7NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger.

"I think that it contributes greatly to this burglary pattern that we're seeing, for the reason that these folks don't want to be identified," said Pazen.

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