CORONA DEL MAR — Last summer, Karen Colton went to a dresser drawer to get a favorite piece from her collection of sexy lingerie. To her surprise and dismay, she discovered that the drawer was almost empty.
"All the white, lacy, satiny things were gone," Colton lamented on Thursday. "You know, the expensive stuff. The cotton (undergarments) were still there."
Suspecting that a friend had borrowed the garments, she forgot the incident until a chance meeting this week revealed that she may be at least the 11th victim this year of an elusive and discriminating thief dubbed the "lingerie burglar" of Corona del Mar.
"We don't know who this guy is," Newport Beach Police Lt. Tim Newman said. The department, according to Newman, has "done extraordinary things to track this guy."
If it is a guy.
The thief, who rummages through drawers and makes off with lacy panties, brassieres and teddies, has baffled police and raised fears among some young women living in this quiet, exclusive section of Newport Beach.
Not much is known about the burglar, whose penchant for stealing pricey undergarments was first reported at the beginning of the year. But detectives hope the elusive thief's regular habits may lead to a suspect.
The burglar always enters the houses or apartments of "very attractive" women through an unlocked door or window, Newman said.
"We have never seen a sign of any forced entry," he said.
The victims are usually under age 40 and live within blocks of each other, all on the ocean side of Coast Highway.
Thefts normally occur in the late afternoon, and the thief forgoes cash and jewelry to concentrate on the choicest silk panties or satiny teddies.
In some cases, only one garment is taken at a time, and it can take weeks before the victim realizes a crime has been committed. But the thief often returns, Newman said. By the third or fourth incident, many of the victims have called police, and are often shocked to learn that they are not alone. The late reports make it more difficult for the police, Newman said.
In interviews, investigators have found little to connect the victims, other than the fact that they live within blocks of each other.
It was a chance encounter with a woman in her neighborhood that led Colton to realize that she had been the victim of a burglar. The other woman had her own tale to tell about disappearing undergarments.