The Morning Insiders on CBS Chicago heard two extremely similar stories, and discovered a disturbing pattern at XSport Fitness gyms. CBS 2’s Lauren Victory obtained crime data from the Chicago Police Department, and learned it’s happened hundreds of times before.
CBS 2’s Lauren Victory in October investigated thefts at Xsport Fitness at two Chicago locations and interviewed Marc Donahue and Nick Raschke. The two men shared similar reports as victims of thieves on their first day working out at two Chicago gyms owned by XSport Fitness — Logan Square and South Loop locations.
The offender or offenders took Marc Donahue’s wallet and wedding ring that he had locked in his car, after he locked his clothes and keys in a locker in the Xsport Fitness Logan Square. Fortunately the offender or offenders didn’t steal his car; but some victims have had their keys and/or key fobs stolen from locker rooms and their vehicles stolen from parking areas at fitness centers in Chicagoland. The offenders can easily locate the victim’s vehicle with any of the many remotes that sound a horn and activate lights on the vehicle parked in the parking lot or parking garage.
“I start getting fraud alerts while still on the treadmill that I was getting $500, $600 expenses at a GameStop 15 to 20 minutes away. I immediately ran to my locker and realized that the lock was gone. Thumbed through it, and my keys were gone. Ran upstairs to notice my car door was unlocked, and my wallet and ring was gone.”
— Marc Donahue at Logan Square Xsport
“I was working out for like 10-15 minutes, and I got an alert on my phone, and I was like, ‘That’s kinda weird,’” so I went downstairs, and I could see that my lock was partially open, and I was like, ‘Oh, man.’”
— Nick Raschke at South Loop Xsport
Both men reported Xsport gym employees were not responsive or helpful when they were informed of the thefts, according to the CBS Chicago report.
TIPS to Avoid Fitness Center Thefts
Use the best lock you can find, but realize almost any padlock can be defeated.
NEVER leave your keys in a locker, even if it is locked.
NEVER leave your wallet in a locker, even if it is locked.
NEVER leave your cellphone in a locker, even if it is locked.
NEVER leave any valuables, such as jewelry, in a locker, even if it is locked.
NEVER leave your locker unlocked, even during a short trip to the toilet, urinal or shower.
NEVER place your cellphone or keys, etc. on the floor, on equipment or on a bench (even in the locker room — disgusting too because somebody’s naked butt could have just been on that bench). It is very easy for a thief to quickly take your cellphone when you turn away during an exercise. Victims often temporarily forget they placed their cellphones down. They walk to another exercise machine, and remember they left their phone unattended only to find their unattended cellphone was immediately stolen.
Use a hip pack or “fanny pack” to carry your keys, cellphone and wallet personally on yourself at all times, and hang it from a shower hook or towel rack while you are showering.
If you are into intense serious training and can’t have a hip pack on your body, consider managing a light version of keys and a thin wallet on visits to the gym — using a small key ring with only your house key, car key or fob and a thin wallet with minimal cash, credit cards and identification or driver’s license that unobtrusively fits in a pocket. Also, possibly leave your cellphone at home.
CBS 2 asked the Chicago Police Department for records of all theft reports at both XSport locations since 2016. At the Logan Square location alone, officers opened 165 investigations for theft, auto theft, or stolen credit cards since the beginning of 2016, which is about one theft per week. Crime reports from the South Loop location were not initially available.
Numerous crime reports have also been filed in Arlington Heights. Besides numerous routine locker thefts and unattended valuables thefts, an Xsport employee’s paycheck was reported stolen in July 2019 at the Xsport North location in Arlington Heights on West Dundee Road.
There have also been significant thefts at LA Fitness on Palatine Road in Arlington Heights. All high-volume fitness center customers in Chicagoland are vulnerable to thefts, whether they are members at private fitness centers or park district facilities.
Vehicle burglaries have also been commonly reported at a variety of fitness centers when thieves target victims that they observe arriving at fitness center parking lots. The thieves know the victims are likely to be away from their vehicles for 30 to 120 minutes during a workout.
FITNESS CENTER CRIME …
XSport Fitness, owned by Capital Fitness Inc. with corporate headquarters on US 30 in Big Rock, Illinois, did not respond to multiple calls and emails requesting comment, according to Lauren Victory.
Members of any fitness center will likely need to take extra precautions now and into the foreseeable future in order to prevent being the victim of a crime.
Fitness center members should be on the lookout for suspicious people loitering in the locker room, and thief team spotters that seem to be watching for people walking into an area of the locker room where a theft might be occurring. Members should also beware of thieves using a distraction technique that is also common in shopping centers where purses are taken from shopping carts. A “fellow” fitness member (Team Thief #1) might strike up a conversation with a victim or ask for a spot on an exercise, while Team Thief #2 walks away with the victim’s gym bag, wallet or Apple iPhone left unattended during the distraction.
For your own safety, it is best to avoid any confrontation with an active thief. Also, beware that most fitness centers have policies that may result in a terminated membership following a physical confrontation.
Be extremely careful about trying to catch an image of a suspect with your cellphone, which is probably not a good idea for multiple reasons. A suspect could react violently and attack you if you appear to be targeting the offender with your cellphone camera. Also, the fitness center management might have policies prohibiting using a camera inside the facility, and you could lose your membership if you’re caught using a camera — especially in the locker room. If you decide to use a camera, use it discreetly immediately outside the facility, and use video mode because you can catch an image without appearing to be taking a photo. Never confront the offender, and don’t tell them that you caught them on your cellphone camera.
If you have just witnessed a theft or the theft is in progress, back off from the area and call 9-1-1 to report the theft. If you can witness how the offender departed the scene, or if the offender left in a vehicle; a physical description and vehicle description with a license plate may be helpful to police. Don’t inflame the situation by telling a fleeing offender that you called 9-1-1 because you could put yourself in danger. It’s best if the offender doesn’t even know you are an active witness.
Fortunately most criminals don’t want to engage in a physical attack, and most are smart enough to know it is best to flee. However, if an offender is mentally ill, under the influence of a harmful drug, or is a violent psychopath; you could find yourself as the victim of a violent attack. Your response needs to change if attack is imminent, and it’s no time to be discreet. If you can flee, you must try to flee an attacker.
If an offender is about to attack you, then it is best to inform the offender you have already called 9-1-1 and that the police are on the way. If you haven’t called 9-1-1, dial it immediately and leave the call connected. Even if your phone is knocked to the ground during a struggle, you can hope the connection stayed open and the 9-1-1 operator can hear you as you continuously repeat the precise address where you are being attacked. Be sure to also repeat to 9-1-1 that you are being physically attacked and describe the offender if possible. You might not be able to hear the questions from 9-1-1, but you can try to provide the answers that responding police officers need. This also lets the 9-1-1 operator hear your struggle and confirm that this is an actual attack. If the call made it to 9-1-1, but was disconnected by the offender, or disconnected when the phone hit the ground; the 9-1-1 operator will likely call back. Don’t think, “Oh, who is calling me now?” If you’re in a struggle, you should try to hit the answer button — assuming you’re not preoccupied defending yourself from an offender with a deadly weapon. If you successfully hit the answer button, yell your precise address and repeat it several times — even if you’re not holding the phone. Again, inform the 9-1-1 operator that you are being physically attacked. Keep in mind that the connected call will possibly reveal an accurate or at least approximate geo-position of your mobile device, assisting with locating the attack.
Yelling will also attract attention of others who may assist you by calling 9-1-1 and/or arriving to help defend you.
You can see how it important it is to prevent being a victim by completely safeguarding your valuables.
^^ MOBILE? USE VOICE MIC ^^
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