• Nima@leminal.space
    link
    fedilink
    English
    arrow-up
    135
    ·
    edit-2
    2 months ago

    for those that have trouble with the weird paywall jank on mobile:

    Twice before, this Virginia carpenter had awoken in the predawn to start his work day only to find one of his vans broken into. Tools he depends on for a living had been stolen, and there was little hope of retrieving them. Determined to shut down thieves, he said, he bought a bunch of Apple AirTags and hid the locator devices in some of his larger tools that hadn’t been pilfered. Next time, he figured, he would track them.

    It worked.

    On Jan. 22, after a third break-in and theft, the carpenter said, he drove around D.C.’s Maryland suburbs for hours, following an intermittent blip on his iPhone, until he arrived at a storage facility in Howard County. He called police, who got a search warrant, and what they found in the locker was far more than just one contractor’s nail guns and miter saws.

    The storage unit, stuffed with purloined power tools, led detectives to similar caches in other places in the next four months — 12 locations in all, 11 of them in Howard County — and the recovery of about 15,000 saws, drills, sanders, grinders, generators, batteries, air compressors and other portable (meaning easily stealable) construction equipment worth an estimated $3 million to $5 million, authorities said.

    “One of the largest theft cases not only in Howard County but in this region,” Police Chief Gregory Der told reporters recently, standing in a county warehouse where the reclaimed loot is piled neatly along walls and stacked high on shelves. “The scope of the investigation is enormous and ongoing,” the chief said, adding, “We believe the tools were stolen from retail stores, businesses, vehicles, residential properties and construction sites.”

    Though none of the prolific thieves has been arrested yet, Der said, “we are investigating several suspects for their roles in this massive theft scheme and expect charges soon.”

    “Yes, yes, I hope they do,” said the 43-year-old carpenter in Sterling, Va., who helped crack the case and spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect his safety. “Jail for them.” Share this articleShare

    Howard police provided contact information for the carpenter, who said his home remodeling business employs 14 workers. He lost about 50 tools in the January theft and has gotten back a half-dozen of them, he said. He is hoping for more.

    “They don’t know what they do to me,” he said of the thieves. “They steal our job.”

    Seth Hoffman, a Howard County police spokesman, said investigators think most of the 15,000 or so tools were stolen in Northern Virginia and Pennsylvania. Howard County is just where they were stashed. He said about a quarter of the tools are in store boxes with labels that make them traceable. Some were stolen as long ago as 2014, he said. As for the thousands of loose and well-used tools now in the county warehouse, it’s hard to tell who owns them.

    “Oh, man, it’s basically every kind of tool you can think of,” Hoffman said. “Basically any kind of tool you can put in a car or a pickup and drive away with. I mean, it’s some kind of inventory.”

    Der said detectives have identified about 80 victims so far, “and we believe there are hundreds if not thousands more.” Police created an online form for people to fill out if they think their stolen tools might be somewhere in the piles. It asks for serial numbers, receipts, photos or any “identifying marks, initials, or numbers.” Authorities declined to discuss further details of the investigation

    As of Wednesday, Hoffman said, 140 forms had been submitted since police announced the recovery last week, and officers are trying to reunite victims with their implements. “A huge undertaking,” was how Der described it.

    “These thefts affect their livelihoods,” the chief said. “We’ve heard from victims who lost work because of their tools. It goes well beyond the cost of replacing the tools.” correction

    A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to AirTags as GPS devices. They are a type of locator device, but they are not GPS trackers. The article has been corrected.

      • beefbot@lemmy.blahaj.zone
        link
        fedilink
        English
        arrow-up
        1
        arrow-down
        13
        ·
        2 months ago

        How DARE you remind anyone that a news source is BIASED (see my comment history where I get scorned for similar)

    • RememberTheApollo_@lemmy.world
      link
      fedilink
      English
      arrow-up
      19
      arrow-down
      1
      ·
      2 months ago

      Cops patting themselves in the back for busting this theft ring while it was a regular citizen who took the time and effort to do the work the police couldn’t be bothered to do in the first place.

      • mojofrododojo@lemmy.world
        cake
        link
        fedilink
        English
        arrow-up
        1
        ·
        2 months ago

        makes you wonder if they did know, but were incentivized to look away. How many years can a ring of tool thieves operate with that kind of take without attracting any kind of enforcement?

        I bet it was a perfect racket for cops to equip their own garages with some nice kit.

    • xthexder@l.sw0.com
      link
      fedilink
      English
      arrow-up
      3
      ·
      2 months ago

      It’s sad probably 90% of this stuff won’t make it back to it’s original owner. Who’s still got serial numbers or receipts for something they bought in 2014? Most people will have moved on or had insurance replacements already