CATSKILL, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A rash of car break-ins has prompted a local fitness studio to host a free women’s self-defense class.
When you’re heading to the gym, you might leave your belongings locked in the car, and that’s why police say gym parking lots are a perfect target for the Felony Lane Gang.
It was a normal day at Sweat Exercise Studio, but when class ended, some members found their cars windows smashed and belongings missing.
“She’s, like, my car was broken into and I need to use your phone because they stole my phone, too,” said Zumba instructor Wendy Casalino.
“I think everyone felt violated and unsafe,” said gym owner Jamie Hyer-Mitchell.
And it wasn’t an isolated incident. There were more smash and grabs at the YMCA in nearby Coxsackie.
“We can’t, at this time, directly attribute it to the Felony Lane Gang; however, it is indicative of that behavior,” said Lt. Adam Brainard with the Greene County Sheriff’s Office.
The Felony Lane Gang isn’t a gang in the typical sense but more of a method that involves scouting out crimes of opportunity.
“A female generally has a pocketbook, so if they see a female walking into the gym with no items in their hands, it’s probably in the car,” said Lt. Brainard.
Casalino says it’s scary to think their studio was being watched.
“We were told that they travel up and down the coast. They target fitness centers. They try to find out when classes are being held,” she said.
And it’s happening across the state. Abby Brewer, from Mechanicville, was charged with stealing more than $2,000 from a bank in Saugerties using a stolen driver license.
Lt. Brainard says they’re working with multiple agencies, and there may be a link.
“It’s probably a good assumption that there is some kind of ties or there’s a little bit of a network there,” he said.
To fight back, Hyer-Mitchel is partnering with the Sheriff’s Office to host a self-defense class.
“If they’re alone in a parking lot, leaving a store fitness studio that they don’t have to worry about watching their backs and not feeling like they can’t protect themselves,” she said.
Lt. Brainard says the criminals are elusive and avoid confrontation but training can go a long way in building confidence.
The free self-defense class for women is Friday at 7 at the Sweat Exercise Studio in Catskill.