INDIANAPOLIS - The Drumstick Dash attracted more runners and raised more money this year than it ever had in its 10-year history, but dozens of participants returned to the off-site parking lot at Glendale Mall to find their cars broken into and their valuables gone.
Sponsors of the Drumstick Dash vow there will not be a repeat of the car break-ins that victimized dozens of race attendees.
Wheeler Mission, sponsor of the Drumstick Dash, said anyone victimized by the smash-and-grab thieves will get free entry into next year's race.
In the meantime, the police investigation into the car break-ins is off to a running start.
Metro police responded quickly to the smash and grabs, and even as officers began taking reports, they received word that the suspects had already used the stolen credit cards multiple times in multiple locations.
"Typically you don't take your wallet, you don't take your cell phone. It's a running event and thieves know this," said officer Chris Purvitis.
Police have started making arrangements to recover surveillance video from Glendale Mall and from several area retail outlets where the thieves tried to use the stolen cards. Police admit that car break-ins are problematic at large events.
"Obviously, we'll have issues in the downtown area surrounding Colts games in some of the parking lots that have people come in and park there and nobody is in the lot to watch their vehicles," said Sergeant Linda Jackson.
The Drumstick Dash raised a record $600,000, nearly 10 percent of Wheeler Mission's annual budget. The Mission promises next year will be different.
"We had some of our staff, volunteers there. But as soon as the race started, our volunteers went and served in other areas," said Steve Kerr, with Wheeler Mission. "Next year, we will be offering complete security of both our shuttle sites."
Metro police say the best advice they can give to runners is leave the valuables at home.