CIRCLEVILLE - City police are seeking information to help identify a suspect accused of stealing personal items and a car from a guest at the Pickaway County Family YMCA on Tuesday.
The suspect, a black male spotted on the YMCA's video surveillance cameras, is accused of taking a wallet, iPhone and keys from an unlocked locker at the Nicholas Drive facility Tuesday morning and then driving away with the victim's car from the parking lot.
The car was later discovered wrecked and abandoned in Franklin County, according to Sgt. Bob Chapman, Circleville Police Department.
Chapman said investigators believe it was a crime of opportunity, and the 19-year-old victim was not specifically targeted by the thief. Chapman said the victim stated he remembered seeing the man in the locker room but did not know him.
He said video surveillance shows the suspect entering and leaving the building. It also shows the male in the parking lot, using the key fob to identify the 2008 Honda Accord.
"You can see him pressing the button on the key fob until the lights went off on the vehicle," Chapman said. "That's how he found the car. Then he just got in it and drove away."
As police work to identify the suspect, Jeff Phillips, executive director of the Pickaway County Family YMCA, said he and his staff are doing all they can to help with the investigation.
"We've been working with police and provided them with screen shots and video footage from our camera system," Phillips said.
Phillips said he also shared a screen shot of the suspect with the executive directors of the other central Ohio YMCA branches so they could be on the lookout for suspicious activity.
He said the local YMCA is fortunate such incidents have been rare, but any gym can be a prime target for crimes of opportunity.
"The Y is a safe place, but when you get lots of people in a building, things can happen," Phillips said. "All YMCAs deal with some level of this kind of behavior. Fortunately, we see it less than some of the suburban YMCAs."
Phillips said the man came in during a particularly busy point in the morning when there were a lot of people and a lot of activity in the lobby.
"He basically walked by the front desk toward the pool area," he said. "Whether this gentleman was keeping an eye on the place or just picked a time when it was really busy and we had a lot going on, I don't know. Unfortunately, he got by the front desk staff. I've alerted my staff that we have to remain more vigilant all the time. If you see somebody who looks suspicious, you go up and ask them what they're doing. Anyone can come into that building, and it's important to keep an eye out."
Phillips said members and guests at the YMCA also are urged to remain on guard and help keep their valuables safe by bringing a combination or key lock to use in the facility's locker rooms.
"It's nice to try to trust people, but if you've got valuables and are going to use a locker, you'd better use a lock," he said. "We advise all the time to lock your valuables up."
Anyone with information on the suspect should contact the Circleville Police Department at 740-474-8888.