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High-end sunglasses store hit 3 nights in a row; reward offered

A Sugar House business that sells high-end sunglasses was robbed not once, not twice, but three days in a row last week. Now, Salt Lake City police and the store's owners are asking for the public's help in finding the people responsible.

On the morning of Sept. 23, someone kicked in the back door of Image Eyes Optical, 2008 S. 1100 East, and stole 130 pairs of designer sunglasses, said Kris Witzel, who owns the store with her husband, Wayne Witzel.

Brands such as Christian Dior, Versace and Prada, worth $200 to $400 each, were taken.

The next night, someone broke into the business again, this time through the front door, and went through all the cupboards and drawers but did not take anything, Witzel said.

"We thought there's no way they'll come back a third night," she said.

But the Witzels installed high-tech surveillance cameras in their store that day, just in case. The cameras paid off right away as the store was broken into for a third consecutive night.

This time, two boys, who appear in the video to be 14 to 16 years old, threw a cinderblock through the front glass window. The block carried all the way to the back wall of the business, where it left a hole. On the video, the teens can be seen grabbing as many sunglass frames as they can.

Approximately 130 more glasses were taken, Witzel said. In three days, the thieves made off with about 260 glasses worth an estimated $100,000, she said.

"It's very crazy," Witzel said. "We were shocked after the second night. It's just been very disturbing and disrupting to business. That's a hard hit."

Wayne Witzel, his son and son-in-law have been sleeping in the store every night since the third break-in, until new security measures can be installed. By the end of the week, the Witzels plan on having steel doors installed to replace the old wooden ones and security gates over the glass windows. Salt Lake City police also have been providing extra patrols in the area at night.

In fact, those extra patrols led to the arrest of a tagger who hit eight or nine businesses the next night, Kris Witzel said.

The Witzels are offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrests of the suspects.

Police had no suspects as of this afternoon. One theory was that the glasses were being stolen to be sold in area high schools.

"Designer sunglasses are a hot item right now," Witzel said. "It's amazing, these young kids are wanting these sunglasses."

Another possibility investigators were looking at was whether the robbery might be linked to a larger organized crime effort.

Witzel said her suppliers have told her that there does seem to be a trend in the West of designer sunglasses being targeted by thieves.

Anyone with information can call the Salt Lake City Police tips line at 799-INFO.


E-mail: preavy@desnews.com