Dispensary security concerns raised after Breckenridge burglary, Denver death
A recent rash of dispensary break-ins across Colorado is raising security concerns. Security guard Travis Mason was killed during the armed robbery of an Arvada dispensary on Sunday, The Denver Post reported, and Breckenridge police recently nabbed two burglary suspects last Friday.
While the arrest marked the first marijuana-related burglary in Breckenridge this year, it was not the first attempt. Breckenridge Police Department administrative supervisor Colleen Goettelman noted there had been just two other attempts since Jan. 1.
Local dispensary Breckenridge Organic Therapy was burglarized twice, once on May 23 and again on June 15. According to a statement released by Breckenridge police, the suspects broke through a window, attempted to disable the security systems and took about $6,000 in items, including lighters, rolling papers, display products and items made of “wax.” The second time around, they removed two cash drawers with a total estimated value of $9,900. The money has not yet been recovered, Goettelman said.
“This is pretty irregular in terms of the industry,” said Breckenridge Organic Therapy owner Adam Weiss. He opened a second business, Boulder Cannabis and Extracts, in 2006.
Despite the damage, he noted, “we were back on our feet the next day.”
“My managers did a great job of putting everything back in place,” he said.
Colorado law provides stringent security requirements for Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) licensed facilities. For example, dispensaries are required to have commercial-grade locks on all entries, and camera coverage is required for all points of ingress/egress, points of sale and areas where products are handled. In addition, buildings are required to have a professionally installed and maintained alarm system.
“We have a lot of high tech security that’s all backed up off-site,” Weiss said. “We do that to make sure all of our employees are safe, and everyone’s taken care of.”
Both times, the suspects entered Breckenridge Organic Therapy by breaking through the glass and setting off the alarm, despite attempts to disable the security system and cameras. But most burglaries only last between two and five minutes, said Josh Ray, director of security for the Cloverton Group, a division of Canna Security America (CSA).
“In Aurora, we had the tragic loss of a person at a dispensary held up at gunpoint,” he said. “There is a need for security guards in the industry. It’s a high-dollar industry. There are a lot of people who know that and will do whatever they can to get money or product.”
CSA provides security guards for nine different companies and has helped installed security systems in more than 500 locations. Ray said he has seen some cases of organized theft, while others just “try to do a smash-and-grab through a window, run in and grab as much as they can.”
In these cases, he estimate criminals might take $5 to $6 thousand in paraphernalia and cause $3 to $4 thousand in damage to the building.
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ALWAYS GREENER ON THE OTHER SIDE
The number of industry-related burglaries are relatively few, and robberies even rarer, a March 2016 study by the Colorado Department of Public Safety reported. In Denver, the number of marijuana-related crimes “has remained stable and makes up a very small portion of overall crime,” according to the study, titled “Marijuana Legalization in Colorado: Early Findings.”
Of all industry-related crime (crimes that happen at a cannabis-related business), burglaries made up the largest portion, at 62 percent. With the cash-only nature of the industry, one might assume robbery, or theft using threat of force, might be common. Last year, Denver saw just five industry-related robberies, compared with 114 burglaries and 22 larceny/theft cases.
Despite the statistics, last week was a rough one for the industry.
“It was quiet for a while — for three to four months, I didn’t hear about any attempted break-ins or burglaries,” Ray said.
In addition to the armed robbery last week, there were three break-ins at grow facilities. Thefts from a cultivation facility can be especially devastating, when expensive equipment required to grow the product is lost. In other cases, thieves will wait for the harvest, and grab any product that is left out to dry.
In the case of the Breckenridge burglary, officers were able to track down two suspects after receiving reports of two cash drawers left at a trailhead in the French Gulch area.
“Working with Breckenridge has been a pleasure throughout this whole process — they really helped us out,” Weiss said. “It’s nice having the police station right next door.”
On Friday, June 17, officers executed search warrants for the suspect’s vehicle and residence and identified missing items from both burglaries, as well as other items taken during several vehicle break-ins across High Street on June 15. Police arrested 19-year-old Kauihou Kanamu-Santos, who faces charges for two cases, including second-degree burglary — forced entry nonresidence, theft of $5,000 to $20,000, first-degree criminal trespass, first-degree criminal tampering, criminal mischief and unlawful possession of a controlled substance. His bond is set at $15,000 and he will next appear in court on July 12. A second suspect, a juvenile, was also identified for his involvement in the two burglaries.
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