Gym Users on Alert After Lake Co. Break-Ins

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WILLOUGHBY, Ohio--Don't leave anything of value inside your vehicle. That's a warning from police, following a rash of car break-ins in two neighboring Lake County cities. The smash and grab thefts all happened outside fitness centers, while women were working out.

"Absolutely violated." That's how Pam Pigza, of Willoughby, feels after her purse was stolen out of her car. She was at a yoga class at Bally's in Willoughby Tuesday evening when someone broke the side passenger window and took her purse that she had left on the floor.  "It was dark.  My purse is black.  The floor was black. They had to have taken a flashlight, looked inside, saw the purse, smashed the window, grabbed and ran," Pigza theorized.

The theft is a real hardship for Pigza, who is recently unemployed. Not only did she have to pay to fix the window, but she lost her purse with everything inside. "Everything was in there.  My license, my credit cards, my camera--which the camera can be replaced.  The pictures in the camera cannot be replaced," Pigza added.

Willoughby police report a similar car break-in recently outside the YMCA on Euclid Avenue. Mentor police say there were three similar smash and grab incidents Tuesday morning. Two Coach purses were taken from cars while the women were at a Jazzercise class.   A sign outside the building now warns people of the recent break-ins, and not to leave anything of value inside the cars.

Sandi Steven also works out at the Bally's in Willoughby and said she has learned not to leave anything in her car where it can be seen. "If I have to bring something, I put it in my trunk so that nobody can see it," Steven said.

Pigza says she too has learned a valuable lesson, but at the expense of losing some valuable personal items. "Never again.  I'll take my driver's license with me to the gym in case I need to present it to anyone.  And, I will never take my purse to the gym again," Pigza said.

The recent car smash and grabs all happened in parking lots near busy streets. So, it is possible someone saw the person or persons stealing the purses.

Anyone with information is asked to call Willoughby or Mentor police.