Police: Eastside gyms the target of locker room thieves

REDMOND, Wash. -- Slimming down in King County could mean slenderizing your wallet, investigators warn.

Police in four Eastside communities are cautioning gymgoers about a recent rash of locker room thefts where thieves are breaking cheap locks and stealing wallets, cell phones, and other valuables. Fitness centers in Bellevue, Issaquah, Kirkland, and Redmond have all been hit, investigators say.

"It popped up on our radar fast because the calls were coming in one after another," said Redmond police spokeswoman Officer Julie Beard. "This is not normal for us or any of the other agencies on the Eastside."

Redmond has seen 20 thefts in as many days, Beard said. Both the 24 Hour Fitness and Gold's Gym in Redmond have been hit, according to owners of both facilities.

"It's frustrating, because we do such a good job in controlling the entry here and locking the locker rooms," said John Hamilton, who owns three Gold's Gym locations on the Eastside. "It's just frustrating because it's something that's difficult to stop, but it's preventable. A good lock, and nobody's going to get in."

Gymgoer Mark Walsh said he was recently the victim of a locker room theft after he left his clothing unlocked while he showered. The thief didn't take anything valuable, Walsh said.

"I don't know why somebody would take smelly old gym clothes. It feels kind of creepy," Walsh said. "Now I'm obsessive-compulsive about putting a lock on a locker and it seems to work. Nobody seems to break in."

Investigators said Thursday they've identified a few persons of interest, and emphasized that buying a strong, secure lock can help prevent these types of theft.

"It's kind of surprising. We tell people to lock it up and these people are doing as we asked them to do," Beard added, "so now we're asking them to get better locks, keep (valuables) with them, or leave them at home if you can."