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Jul 1, 2007

Paddock Thefts Of Wallets And Credit Cards Is Nothing New

By Alan Wilson

The paddock thievery that seems to be following events around the country may not be anything new.

For many years a similar pattern of thefts has occurred at significant road and street circuit events, going back at least until the early 1990s.

The thefts always seem to follow the same course. They occur before 9:30 a.m. on the first day of a major event, typically Friday. The thefts are always from team transporters and consist of money and credit cards being removed from wallets in clothing that is hanging in the transporter or folded in a gear bag, at a time when the driver or rider and mechanics are in pit lane for the first practice of the weekend, when teams are so involved in their racing that they have no-one standing around or in the transporter. Because the wallets are left where they were, and just some of the contents removed, it is often the full day before someone realizes that they have been robbed.

A second element of the theft pattern is that the perpetrators leave the track before 10:00 a.m. and go to the nearest major shopping center where they rack up thousands of dollars of purchases before anyone has reported the cards or cash stolen. They then disappear.

I am aware of several of these events, including one where a famous Indy 500 Champion lost $6000 in Dallas.

I have always made police and security at each event that I have run, aware of this pattern and have had electronic surveillance cameras in place in the paddock at several tracks, including at all my Miller Motorsports Park events. In fact the whole paddock layout and gate system at Miller was designed to improve the ability to capture surveillance video of this type of activity.

Despite this, the thieves have the decided advantage. They are obviously very familiar with how car and bike pro races operate; they know exactly when transporters are least attended and they obviously dress or act like regular team members because no one ever seems to recall seeing anyone who is out of place hanging around the trucks during the time the thefts take place.

I strongly recommend that all teams either lock their transporters when they are in the pits (although this is obviously a pain in the neck and not very practical), or always make sure that there is at least one person very visibly in or around the transporter. Also, have team members lock their clothing and especially wallets, briefcases and gear bags away. Perhaps even install a hotel type safe in their transporters in which team members can place wallets, watches and other valuables.

It would also be a good idea if someone from the appropriate sanctioning body would advise the track operator at their events of what has been happening and have them increase security and improve awareness at their events.