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Locker Room Thief Prowling Morgan Park Sports Center, Hockey Players Say

By Howard Ludwig | September 27, 2017 6:05am | Updated on September 27, 2017 6:43am
 Several hockey players have reported thefts from the locker rooms at the Morgan Park Sports Center in recent weeks. The center's hockey director, Kevin Coyne, confirmed the incidents Tuesday afternoon.
Several hockey players have reported thefts from the locker rooms at the Morgan Park Sports Center in recent weeks. The center's hockey director, Kevin Coyne, confirmed the incidents Tuesday afternoon.
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DNAinfo/Howard A. Ludwig

MORGAN PARK — Someone has been stealing more than pucks at the Morgan Park Sports Center.

A locker room thief has been targeting wallets left unattended while players are on the ice, according to Jennifer Roseferatu Obecunas, a manager of a coed team that plays at the center, 11505 S. Western Avenue.

Obecunas said $207 was stolen from her Sunday night. She had the money because she had just collected a league registration fee from a teammate. Another teammate also had money stolen from the locker room that same night, Obecunas said.

Similar thefts occurred Aug. 16, 18 and 22, Obecunas said. And another coed team manager said cash was stolen out of his wallet that he left in the locker room Friday night.

Kevin Coyne, hockey director for the center, confirmed the incidents Tuesday afternoon. In an email sent to the coed league, he advised players to bring a small lock to store valuables in the free lockers near the entrance to the rink.

Coyne also said players can also bring their belongings to the bench, while further advising that neither the rink nor the Chicago Park District are responsible for lost or stolen items.

The center requires players to surrender their car or house keys in exchange for keys to any of its four locker rooms. The rink also advises teams lock the door to the locker room while they are on the ice.

But two locker rooms are separated by a shared bathroom. And the doors providing access to the bathroom do not lock. Coyne said locking the bathroom doors would present a fire hazard, as someone could end up trapped inside.

Obecunas thinks that's how the thief who stole her cash Sunday night accessed her team's lockers because the locker room door was locked. Coyne said he and others at the rink are brainstorming a solution to the problem.

Coyne also said similar thefts have occurred this summer at the Oak Lawn Ice Arena and at Southwest Ice Arena in south suburban Crestwood. Officials with both rinks confirmed the incidents there.

Shari Wolfe, interim manager of the Oak Lawn rink, said hockey players have reported such thefts 4-5 times this summer. As a result, players will have to present identification and sign in starting next week before stepping on the ice.

Wolfe believes the sign-in process will act as a deterrent. 

Frank DiCristina is president of Southwest Ice Arena and said issues of theft arose there about two months ago. He said pick-up hockey games known as "rat hockey" occasionally attract thieves.

When the thefts reoccur, its common for nearby rinks to share information. The goal is to prevent further theft and possibly catch the thief, DiCristina said.

The note about the thefts in Morgan Park also warned players against drinking in the locker rooms after the games. Coyne's email said coed teams have been hanging out in the locker rooms for more than two hours after the games.

He also said that four trash cans were filled with beer cans and bottles after recent games, reminding players that alcohol "is not permitted in the building or on any Chicago Park District property."

Megan Burciaga, facilities manager in Morgan Park, also sent an email to those in the coed league saying anyone caught with alcohol will face suspensions and continued problems could result in a team being removed from the league.

But Obecunas said drinking in the locker room is not a serious problem — more concerning to her and others are the recent thefts. She plans to file a police report and has urged others to do likewise.

"There have been no issues with drinking after games at the rink other than staff having to empty trash cans. I believe this was brought up to distract us from the issue at hand," she said.

The Brother Rice High School football team fell victim to similar thefts Sept. 1 during a game against Crete-Monee High School. Seven students from the far south suburban school were charged with burglarly, theft and trespassing after electronics belonging to the Rice players went missing.

Police said the Crete-Monee school district also is proceeding with disciplinary action against the students after Brother Rice players discovered items taken from book bags that were being kept in an unlocked locker room, according to a Chicago Tribune report.