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Aurora PD investigating alleged theft of documents containing personal information of refugees

Thief breaks into Village Exchange Center offices
Posted at 1:54 AM, Mar 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-09 08:48:07-04

AURORA, Colo. -- Police are investigating an alleged break-in at the Village Exchange Center, a nonprofit serving Aurora's immigrant and refugee communities.

The Center's executive director, Amanda Blaurock, said the break-in may be "bias-related."

She said the thief didn't take the center's expensive lighting and sound equipment, but apparently did cart off some computers, quite a few keys and some critical paperwork.

"That's why I'm thinking it's a hate-based crime," she said, "that he was interested in getting information on who we're serving here."

A staff employee, Alejandra Ospina, said she arrived at work Saturday morning and noticed an office door lock had been jimmied.

"It was broken and we found all (the items in these drawers) completely upside down, and these papers completely in disorder," she said.

Ospina told Denver7 that drawers and file cabinets had been yanked open in two offices at the center, which is located at 16th and Havana.

Theft videotaped

The theft was caught on camera.

Security video shows the hooded thief entering the front door, which had been left unlocked following a late night religious service.

He walks over to a locked office door and proceeds to jimmy the lock.

The thief is later seen picking up a bag of items, waiting for traffic to drive by, and then walking out the door.

Blaurock said another man entered the building overnight and was found sleeping in the basement.

She said he wasn't connected to the one who broke into the two offices.

Gathering Place

The Village Exchange provides a gathering place for Christian immigrants, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and Muslims to pray.

Blaurock said they've partnered with 21 other organizations to provide ESL classes, citizenship and financial literacy classes, and help for human tracking victims.

She said the exchange also provides a food pantry, as well as after school and natural leadership services for the immigrant communities.

Sudanese Community

On Saturday night, members of the Sudanese community gathered at the center, to share a meal and to learn about the upcoming Census.

When asked for his take on the theft, Board Chairman Omar Montgomery, who is also President of the Aurora branch of the NAACP, said he was trying to remain optimistic.

"I'm hoping this person just had some type of mental breakdown, and just needed the release from stress, and that it wasn't done because of hate," he said.

Montgomery said the immigrant community is resilient and will recover from the safety breach.

Blaurock said if it was a bias-related crime, it won't stop them from doing their work.

"I think what we do is critical for our community because we are a space of belonging and we really believe in bridging and working with all our community members so whatever is going on, or whatever happened with this young man, we hope never to happen again."

She said the in years past, the Village Exchange Center applied for, and received a grant to help install security lighting around their facility.

"We hope to receive enough support now," she said, "so we can make sure that we keep our community safe."