Rash of Lockbox Thefts Plague South County Theater Spaces

Within 12 hours of installing a lockbox on the theater's back door on Saturday, Ovations Performing Arts on Forbes Road in Laguna Niguel was burglarized.

“Using the lockbox key, they got in here,” says Ovations founder and director Charla Moore. “They took all of our microphones; they took all of our laptop computers, the projector we use for our shows—anything electronic or valuable is gone.”

The booth was also emptied of its light board, sound board and two follow spots; more than $10,000 worth of loss, just in time for Thursday night's holiday show. Moore, who moved Ovations into the space in June, says, “We'll do the show by candlelight if we have to.”

There is a chance the performance will go on at Dana Hills High School. Not long after a social media post about the burglary went up on Sunday, a Dana Hills teacher offered the school's theater, pending administration approval, which is expected later today.

“If we end up with that theater, we'll just blow up our event and invite more students to perform than we were before, and let go and make it big,” says Moore. “We just all want to be together and celebrate the holidays and try to stay positive.”

The burglars found the cashbox and took all Ovations' tools, as well as some props. “They even took prop laptops that don't even work anymore, prop phones—they just took it all,” says the theater director. The burglars even emptied boxes, careful not to break the glass vases inside them, and used the boxes to haul off the loot.
A crime-scene investigator told Moore on Sunday that a glove print found there appeared to match that of a burglary last week at a nearby dance studio, which has had their lockbox on for at least 10 years. So it appears it's not the purchase of a lockbox, but a lockbox on a business that caters to performing kids that are the targets of these thieves. The investigator told Moore that four other studios with lockboxes have been hit recently. At one, the Toys for Tots collection was taken, as well as the electronics.

Moore observed that the burglars had to work in the dark because they never found the blackened light switch on the wall of the all-black theater space. Something must have spooked them because they left behind a keyboard and a Peavey PA speaker, which was found on the floor near the back door.

Moore's 2-year-old daughter plays on the keyboard as her mother reports that the burglars kicked in a locked door, which leads into the bathroom of the adjoining business, a Herff Jones graduation-recognition supplier.

“There was a trail of senior T-shirts leading from the open door across the theater space to the back door, where the burglars had entered,” says Moore.

“They even used the toilet,” adds Jenn Moeller, whose son Rilee is in all the Ovations shows, including the holiday show on Thursday. “They left the toilet seat up.”

The trail of seniors tees resulted in some hard evidence found by the crime-scene investigator: a shoe print, that hopefully will lead to the capture of these creeps who target children during the holiday season. “There is a camera back behind here from a neighbor's business,” adds Moore, as we look out the back door's point of entry. “So we're hoping to get footage.”

Behind the two-story building where Ovations puts on shows, there's weekend overflow parking for the Karman Bar, but it has mostly been a construction site for the enormous Crown Cape Center going up, which looms over the 5 freeway at Crown Valley Parkway. “Who saw me put on a lockbox, and who made a call?” Moore wonders.

Still, she is upbeat, positive and energetic; she started with only five students, and now she has three classes of 25 students each. Since she moved into the space in June, she has produced a play every 12 weeks. “That's what I like: production!” she says, as her daughter shows us a toy unicorn and asks its name. “And kids.”

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