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Denver Police warn dispensary owners about 'grab and go' thieves targeting customers

Customers asked to conceal product
Posted at 11:30 PM, Jan 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-10 01:30:11-05

DENVER -- These are busy times for Colorado's marijuana shops, and busy times for thieves.

Denver Police are warning shop owners about thieves preying on customers.

In an advisory sent out Friday, Police said suspects are approaching customers exiting stores while carrying their purchased product.

"The suspect(s) have approached and snatched the purchased items from (customer's) hands and fled the area," the advisory said.

The advisory did not list the dispensaries where the thefts have occurred.

"People are poor right now and they're doing crazy things," said Miguel Lopez, founder of Denver's 420 Rally, and a customer at nearby dispensaries along Broadway and on West 13th Avenue.

Lopez told Denver7 he's been threatened before, while out and about on Broadway, so when he goes to a dispensary, he pays attention to his surroundings.

Police want more people to do the same thing.

"We try to watch our cameras," said Wayne Rybolt, the HR manager at Local Product of Colorado, a dispensary one block west of Denver Police Headquarters.

Rybolt said theft has not been a problem at Local Product.

He said staff is trained to keep an eye on things inside and out.

"During the COVID outbreaks it's been a little easier. It's one (customer) in and one out, so it's easier to watch the premises," he said. "It's just being aware of your surroundings."

Lopez said laws treat marijuana shops and liquor stores differently.

He said liquor store owners are generally allowed to possess guns, but federal law, which classifies marijuana as a controlled substance, doesn't allow anyone possessing, or addicted to a controlled substance, to possess a firearm.

So many dispensaries hire security guards.

Police said there are steps customers and shop owners can take to lessen the likelihood of theft.

"It may be advisable for customers to conceal their purchases by placing them into a pocket or purse, when possible," the theft advisory said. "Visible deterrence such as security personnel, cameras and adequately lit egress paths and parking areas also serve as prevention and safety measures."

Lopez said when he goes to a dispensary, he always takes extra steps.

"Don't go alone. Be aware of your surroundings. Know your location in case you need to call for help. Do whatever is, in legal means, to carry protection legally and just be vigilant," he said.