Off the Press

July 5, 2011

By David Hayes

Our police blotter page is routinely one of the most well-read sections of our paper.

David Hayes Press Reporter

Its clever, pithy headlines elicit chuckles while informing readers of criminal activity in our community.

Unfortunately, a police report is only funny as long as it happens to someone else.

Last week, the Elks Lodge was broken into in an incident you will most likely read about soon on the blotter page. As a member, I was enraged to discover the breach of our public sanctum. Secretary Don Schafer went to work June 30 to discover his office door open, which he always locks when he leaves. After discovering his office trashed, he feared the worst.

“When I saw the bar area, I said, ‘Oh, shit’ and called the police,” Schafer said.

With no alarm on the building, someone brazenly pried open the outer door to the storage room, and then tunneled through the drywall into the men’s room, giving them unfettered access to the rest of the building.

“It looked like a bomb had gone off in there,” Elks member Patti Kreager said.

Schafer said the theft totaled 25 bottles of liquor and more than $4,000 in cash. There was no damage estimate yet, which included three broken full-sized doors and broken liquor cabinet doors.

Little do the criminal(s) realize that stealing from an organization like the Elks hurts the community it does so much good for. Much of the money stolen goes to charitable resources, such as Compassion House and the Elks rehab program. Other funds keep programs, such as the Thursday night dinners, running.

When they found no money in the back poker room, the criminals instead trashed the space.

“Actually, they broke into the cuss box, but left the couple bucks in there untouched,” said member Brad Burns, finding some humor in the unfortunate incident.

As bad as the building looked after the break in, visitors would be hard pressed to tell hours later that an incident took place at all (except of course for the large hole still in the wall in the men’s room). Demonstrating the sense of community that many joined the Elks for in the first place, members descended upon the building to help with clean up.

“There wasn’t an empty parking space in the lot,” Burns proudly said.

Because of the break-in, I fear there will be numerous unintended consequences. The Elks leaders met Tuesday evening after The Issaquah Press was published. But obviously, the break-in had to be a top agenda item. Who knows what security measures will be suggested and acted upon?

It’s obvious from the break-in, someone knew tunneling through the drywall to the men’s room would gain easy access to the rest of the building. This means someone had been inside the lodge before, most likely from one of the parties the Elks rents the lodge out at affordable rates. Will this change?

Would extra security measures have helped detour a determined criminal? If so, that’s money the lodge officers won’t have to spend on another important community program.

And how safe are our Friday night poker games? Do we have to play for pretzels now for fear of a criminal’s return engagement?

Schafer said the lodge was last broken into in 2004, when it was being remodeled, but losses were minimal. But with a heftier haul, the criminals succeeded in taking a little piece of community innocence with them this time. With the police having little to go on, we’d appreciate dear readers keeping your ears open for braggadocio.

As traumatic as this break-in could have been, with a strong core of Elks membership representing all walks of life within the Issaquah community, old and young, we’ll get by and stay strong. Hopefully the next time you read about the Elks, it will be on the community page, not the blotter page.

David Hayes: 392-6434, ext. 237; dhayes@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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