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June 2020
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Breaking News
Yoga Thieves Are On The Loose - Again!

Conor Donovan, a front desk staffer, opened the studio at around 3:20pm, ten minutes before his shift started at Yoga Vida

“We weren’t officially open yet,” he said. “But sometimes people come in early to hang out before class.”

In this case, a woman came in, set her mat down in the practice space, and went to change. Donovan used this time to fold mats and prepare the studio when two young men stepped off the elevator.

“One approached me with his resume, asking about job offerings here,” and the other was holding conversation with a friend on his phone. “He was saying something like ‘Hi, we’re here…yes Yoga Vida…where you told us to meet you for class…’ making it seem like he was waiting for a friend to join them,” Donovan said. But it was clearly a rehearsed routine.   

While one man chatted with Donovan about employment opportunities, the other snuck into the practice space with his shoes on.

“He was just meandering in the studio, so I thought it was just harmless lack of etiquette,” Donovan said. But what he didn’t realize was that the woman who had arrived earlier left her bag in the studio while changing.  

“I knew something was up, but I didn’t want a confrontation or to accuse,” Donovan said. Then, the two men headed to the elevator and left - with the woman's wallet.  Donovan was deceived by how friendly and casual the two men were.

But this sounds all too familiar.

A year ago last March, similar incidents plagued the yoga community. Eleven studios received visits by other elusive and unassuming robbers. Seven of the spaces, including Yoga Vida, had valuables stolen.

Since then, some spaces have tried cracking down on security.

At Alison West’s Yoga Union on 28th Street, all front desk karmis are required to follow specific precautions. “If the front desk or front entrance ever needs to be left unattended, we always lock the elevator and office door,” said YU’s studio manager Kristin Woods. “We also don’t allow people who are not regular students to wait in the entrance for someone that is in class, unless a verification has been confirmed. Remind everyone to be vigilant about who is in the space!”

Yoga Vida owner Mike Patton contacted the police but they have yet to come and collect a statement.

“We have a video of the incident, but because the cost of the goods stolen was under $1,000, I don’t expect a detective to actually investigate,” Patton said. The NYPD considers crimes of this nature to be petty larceny, triaging them at the low-end.

So what to do?

Last year, YogaCity NYC’s editor Cynthia Kling got tips from inmates at a New York maximum-security prison: “They told me that these places clearly have been cased in advance.  If you don’t want them to come back and rob you, then start acting like it.”

With no help from the NYPD, studios will need to take matters into their own hands and gin up their safety procedures - if they haven't already done so. Be sure to have security cameras and signs indicating that the cameras are running at all times (even if they aren’t). Equally important: have a front desk person who is aware, observant and not afraid to question suspicious people.  

“Hopefully we can distribute this info to as many local studios as possible and nip it in the bud before they decide to try this again,” Patton said. “They clearly seem to be targeting yoga studios, and this didn’t seem to be their first rodeo.”   

In the meantime, spread the word, keep your eyes peeled and let YogaCity NYC know at publisher@yogacitynyc.com if this happens at your studio. By staying informed about what is going on, we can help each other out.

-Michael Laskaris 

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