COSTILLA COUNTY – Social media has gotten a bit of a bad rap lately, but it came in pretty handy earlier this month when a group of homeowners in Forbes Park used it to stop and briefly nab a burglar on a short-lived but costly crime spree.
Located in the mountains of Costilla County roughly 15 miles east of Fort Garland, Forbes Park is a remote, gated community with a mixture of cabins, year-round homes and RVs scattered on one to two acre lots and larger. The usually laid back, placid community describes itself as the place for “your dream home away from home”, and neighbors watch out for each other to make sure it stays that way.
But, as is true throughout areas like the San Luis Valley and beyond, the amenities of living in a rural area are attracting more and more people, and Forbes Park is seeing its fair share of development. Lots are being sold. Land is being leveled. And, in some places, houses are being built. This has resulted in a significant number of workers hired to make those “dream homes away from home” being given the keys to paradise in the form of passcodes that can be used to get past the gate that, for years, discouraged strangers from coming in, cruising around and taking a look at – or simply taking – what the community had to offer.
That is what Kim Moultney, a landowner in Forbes Park, and others surmise may have paved the way for a burglar to get into Forbes Park without being noticed and get out with a notable amount of loot.
“Since August 15,” Moultney says, “at least six homes have been burgled by the same man.” The fact that it was, indeed, the same man is beyond dispute, According to Moultney, his image was captured in perpetuity by different security cameras on the homes. She admits the alleged thief did provide a bit of unintentional humor as, in some of the photos, he appears to have used toilet paper (or something else equally as flimsy) to wrap around his head and mask his features. Unfortunately for him, his unusual albeit extremely cost-effective bandana didn’t quite do the trick, for he failed to cover up a “very distinctive tattoo” on the back of his neck.
Recognizing the Costilla County Sheriff’s Office has multiple duties in an enormous amount of territory, several members of the homeowners’ association took it upon themselves to investigate and patrol the area until the deputies could make it out. Meanwhile, the locals shared on their Facebook page all the information they collected with their neighbors, whether they were a couple of acres or a couple of states away.
By the time Friday morning rolled around, the thief had robbed six houses, “that we know of,” Moultney adds.
Apparently buoyed by the successful theft of money, credit cards, cell phones and even a pickup truck (with the owners fast asleep inside), the thief decided to return to Forbes Park and break into another house.
Unbeknownst to him, the information shared on social media enabled a couple of landowners to spot him on sight, stop him and zip tie his hands to hold him until law enforcement arrived. They also took a few photos of his face, this time unfettered by the TP bandana. But somehow, the burglar managed to give them the slip and get away on foot, adding the theft of an e-bike to his bounty in the process.
When Costilla County deputies arrived on the scene, they took possession of the man’s car and cell phone.
The story could have ended there, but the folks at Forbes Park, now armed with the thief’s identity, were not about to let it go.
Once again, they turned to social media, ultimately learning the name of his business, his home address, his Facebook page and other personal information. Uncertain when he will be apprehended by CCSO, one landowner downloaded his photo and created posters alerting the public to the thefts. The posters have been distributed in Fort Garland, Alamosa, Monte Vista and…the neighborhood where the burglar reportedly lives.
Although there have been no more break-ins in Forbes Park since last Friday – at least that they know of – the thief has yet to be captured.
Moultney updates the story. “Last Friday, we discovered that a flatbed truck with fire fighting equipment on it is missing from the Park. Could he have left the area in our fire truck? This guy is brazen and appears to be not too bright. Yet he has outsmarted a community, a sheriff’s office and has left us feeling frightened, frustrated, vulnerable and enraged.”
In a statement on Monday, Costilla County Sheriff Sanchez states, “This is an ongoing investigation. As soon as information becomes available, the public will be informed.”