Concord LGBT center rattled by break-ins

A series of robberies at a community center, a rock thrown through a window at a thrift store and a batch of hateful graffiti scrawled on an office wall have combined to seriously rattle the local LGBT community in Concord.

The Rainbow Community Center, which offers low-cost counseling and support services to the LGBT community, was the target of repeated break-ins and vandalism over the course of a few weeks starting in August, according to the center’s executive director David Barr.

The first incident was in mid-August, when somebody threw a rock through the window of the center’s thrift shop during store hours, Barr said.

Nobody was hurt, Barr said, but it frightened the employees.

Then, on four separate occasions starting on Aug. 21 and ending Oct. 5, somebody broke into the community center and made off with computers, a projector, cash, and several electronic storage devices, Barr said.

After each break-in, the center improved its security measures, but each time the thieves were able to get back in.

During the last burglary, someone scrawled anti-LGBT messages on an office wall in an incident that Concord police are calling a hate crime, according to police spokesman Cpl. Christopher Blakely.

Barr said:

“We’re just in shock. There are so few places where gay and lesbian people can come together and feel safe. … To have one of those very few places in our county have this level of attack has just left us feeling very, very vulnerable.”

In one of the burglaries, the suspects took valuable donor information, including credit card account information and canceled checks, Barr said.

Soon, charges were popping up on the accounts for pizza, hotel rooms in Antioch and gift certificates from auto parts stores, he said.

Barr said:

“It’s just excruciating. … It’s very chaotic for our staff.”

On the positive side, Barr said they’ve seen an incredible outpouring of support from the community:

“A mom baked us cookies and brought in Danish. … We’ve had many people step forward with that kind of encouragement and support.”

Police have yet to make an arrest or identify any suspects in the case, Blakely said, but officers are reviewing security camera footage and processing fingerprints and other evidence taken after the break-ins.

Anyone with information about these crimes is asked to call Concord police at (925) 671-3333.