Morning Del Mar robbery adds to string of resale shop thefts

By Claire Harlin

Lucie Le, owner of Ladies Designer Resale Boutique in Del Mar, was in for an unfortunate — and familiar — surprise on Oct. 18, when she received a call from her security alarm company saying her shop had been broken into. This was the fourth time the shop, located at 1150 Camino del Mar, has been broken into this year.

“I tried to call the store to make sure it wasn’t a mistake,” she said. “By the time I got there the Sheriff was already there.”

The incident happened around 7:15 a.m. and, fortunately, Le said her business neighbor, Art Katz of U.S. Building and Development, opens his office early and arrived to work in time to see a man loading designer handbags and other merchandise into a 36-inch trashcan outside the shop door, which officials said the robber opened with a crowbar.

Katz declined to comment, but Le described his actions as heroic. She and Sheriff’s detective Mike Casey said Katz chased the suspect to his vehicle, a 2001 gold Ford Ranger truck, and copied down the license plate number.

“The robber had the trashcan full of Chanel and Louis Vuitton handbags, and I got all that back, thank God,” said Le, adding that there were still some items the robber got away with, so it may have been his second trashcan load.

She said she thanked Katz for stepping in, but was concerned about his safety.

“He’s a big guy, but next time I would prefer that he thinks about his safety more than my merchandise,” she said.

Le is equipped with an alarm and surveillance camera, however, the quality on the surveillance footage was too grainy to make out details of the suspect’s appearance, said Casey. Katz, however, described him to authorities as being about six feet tall and medium build, likely between the ages of 20 and 30.

Casey said authorities have located the registered owner of the vehicle. However, that person sold the vehicle and the new owner does not fit Katz’s description. As of Oct. 24, nobody had been apprehended or held as a suspect.

Le said this is the fourth time in 2012 that her store has been burglarized, and she’s had to replace a door or window each time.

“This is just ridiculous for the Del Mar area,” said Le, who moved down the street after being broken into twice at her previous Camino del Mar location. “I pay a lot of money in rent here.”

Carolyn Lancaster, owner of Carolyn’s Designer Resale at 1310 Camino del Mar, said she was the victim of a similar robbery about two months ago.

“It was the same thing. It was in the morning, at 6 a.m., and they took Chanel handbags,” said Lancaster, adding that her total loss was about $5,000. “I heard of one like this in Encinitas too.”

Casey said it has not been determined if there is a theft ring, or whether the crimes could be committed by the same person, however, the investigation is ongoing.

“My guess is these shops have items that are resold easily,” said Casey. “They may be selling them on Craigslist or Ebay or have a buyer lined up.”

Le said she is thinking of moving when her lease is up, because the cost of starting anew may outweigh the possibility that she could once again become the victim of a robbery.

“I want to stay in Del Mar, but I just want it to be safer,” she said.

If you have information regarding this or another robbery, call the Encinitas Sheriff’s Department at (760) 966-3527.