Thieves target swimmers at Barton Springs Pool


by QUITA CULPEPPER / KVUE News and photojournalist DEREK RASOR

Posted on July 19, 2013 at 5:18 PM

Updated Friday, Jul 19 at 10:48 PM

AUSTIN -- The summer weather means plenty of people at Barton Springs Pool. It also means thieves are hoping to cash in on those crowds.

Thousands enjoy spending time at Barton Springs Pool, but for Kristina Carmona and Paul Ozbirn, the pleasure of the pool is spoiled. The two and their friend had their belongings stolen last weekend while swimming.

“We set down our things and immediately got in the water,” Carmona said. “Not even 10 minutes later, got back up, and all of our things were gone. We went over to Barton Springs security and told them about the incident. They said it happened earlier today to somebody else.”

Austin police say people leaving things on their towels while they swim is an open invitation to thieves.

A search of the Austin Police Department’s crime tracker showed several thefts occurred at Barton Springs Pool and in Zilker Park within the past week alone.

“Anytime you see increased usage of the parks, we do see an increase in theft. We've seen that recently,” said APD Senior Officer Michael Hart.

Hart says thieves are looking for things like cell phones, credit cards and cash, which can be used before the victim notices they're gone.

He recommends keeping your things secure, even at a laid-back and friendly place like Barton Springs.

“One way would be utilizing the lockers that they provide here if you have a lock, or not leaving your items unattended,” Hart said. 

Carmona and Ozbirn did manage to get some of their things back. A friend had hidden his iPhone in one of the stolen backpacks. They called police and for hours tracked the thieves using that phone.

After a chase, the thieves threw the stolen belongings over a fence.

“We recovered 10 people's drivers licenses, credit cards, health insurance cards, receipts, car keys, purses,” said Carmona. 

“Everything, wet towels from the day at Barton Springs, they were still wet,” said Ozbirn.

The couple says while they're glad to have some of their belongings back, they're upset APD still hasn't contacted them about the incident.

“A detective was supposed to be assigned to the case on Monday, two days after it happened, and it's Friday,” Ozbirn said. “We haven't heard anything because no one cares, because it's just a petty theft to them.”

APD told KVUE they had undercover agents at the pool just last week, but didn't spot any crimes. They plan on doing more undercover stings in the future.

KVUE was also told there are so many park and pool thefts reported this summer, it's been hard for police to keep up, which may be why they haven't contacted Carmona and Ozbirn yet.