Mackenzie Mavis's size matters: Did she rob a dozen houses by sneaking in pet doors?

At this writing, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office hasn't released any photos of thirty-year-old Mackenzie Mavis, who was recently busted for burglary. But DCSO spokesman Sergeant Ron Hanavan describes her as having "a small frame."

Why's her size important? Because investigators think she entered a Highlands Ranch house through a pet door -- and she's a suspect in about a dozen additional burglaries in the community whose perpetrator apparently did the same. Get the details below.

As Hanavan points out, most home burglaries take place during the daytime hours, when residents can be expected to be at work. But that's not happened on November 29.

"The resident was sleeping when he was awakened by a noise at roughly four in the morning," he notes. "He walked out to see what it was, and he found the female suspect inside."

At that point, the suspect, ID'd as Mavis, split -- and presumably not through the pet door she'd apparently used to get inside. The homeowner responded by running after her -- a risk, Hanavan acknowledges. "We would caution anyone in that situation, because you never know who you're chasing after," he says. "But thankfully, it turned out well."

Indeed, the home owner quickly captured Mavis and held her until DCSO reps arrived -- and they were very interested in her modus operandi. That's because investigators were already looking into a dozen so-called pet-door burglaries in Highlands Ranch over the course of just a month or so.

This photo of Highlands Ranch is from the 2009 PBS documentary "Blueprint America."
This photo of Highlands Ranch is from the 2009 PBS documentary "Blueprint America."

Thus far, Mavis hasn't been charged with any of the other crimes: The accusations against her -- second-degree burglary, theft, criminal mischief and crimes against an at-risk adult -- all pertain to the November 29 break-in. But investigators are currently working to determine "whether or not she was involved" in the other capers, or if there's a sudden rash of suburban scofflaws with larcenous intent and an ability to fit through a doggy door.

Does the DCSO advise people not to get pet doors, or to seal the ones they have? Not exactly. In some instances, such doors can actually be a crime deterrent, Hanavan says, since burglars who see them realize they may encounter an angry canine with big teeth if they slip inside. But he recommends that people with pet doors lock them when they're not around -- even though the whole idea behind them is so dogs can go in and out whenever they wish -- or invest in higher-tech versions whose lock is triggered to open by a transmitter inside the dog's collar.

Granted, such crimes have been fairly rare in Highlands Ranch until the recent rash or pet-door burglaries. Far more common, Hanavan maintains, are incidents in which thieves were able to enter because residents left their human-size doors unlocked or their garage doors open.

You can't blame Fido for that.

If you live in Highlands Ranch, have a pet door and discover missing items, you're encouraged to phone the DCSO at 303-660-7500.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Colorado Crimes archive circa October: "Marijuana burglar busts dispensary window with water jug, gets away with nothing."

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