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Area hit by rash of tool thefts

October 16, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Some resourceful thieves have been brazen in stealing expensive tools from Hagerstown-area companies during the last two months.

Thieves have been cutting through and digging under barbed-wire fences to get to thousands of dollars worth of tools. In one instance, a generator that was chained to the bed of a pickup truck was taken.

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So far Hagerstown City Police have no suspects in the rash of approximately 30 reported tool thefts since Sept. 1, Capt. Robert Hart said. In almost every case, more than $1,000 worth of tools was stolen - none of which has turned up in local pawn shops, he said.

The thefts have occurred in a circular pattern around the city, with most of them cutting through the northwest and southeast neighborhoods, said Hart, who has a pin map marking each tool theft at police headquarters on South Burhans Boulevard.

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The thefts are not limited to the businesses' lots. Tools also have been stolen from vans and trucks that employees take home, Hart said. So far, the area's business parks have not been hit.

Similar thefts have been reported by the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

Hart said he suspects one or more groups of thieves may be working together to steal the pricey equipment.

Between Sept. 29 and 30, thieves dug under a barbed-wire fence at the Washington County Association for Retarded Citizens' 820 Florida Ave. lot, stealing $1,700 worth of tools, said Executive Director Bob DeHaven.

Sanders, grinders, routers, electric drills and a miter saw for molding were stolen from locked tool boxes that are bolted in the beds of the group's pickup trucks, DeHaven said. The thieves pried open the tops.

Late Tuesday or early Wednesday, a generator that was chained to the bed of a GMC pickup truck at Bonded Applicators of Maryland Inc. was stolen, Hart said. The same night that $1,400 worth of tools was stolen from the 301 S. Cleveland Ave. roofing company, the thieves struck at nearby Shifler Electrical Associates Inc.

A new generator worth about $500 was stolen from the company's lot at 426 S. Cannon Ave., Office Manager Laura Anderson said. Anderson said she was embarrassed to say the truck's back doors were not locked.

An employee backed the truck up close to trailers, but the thief or thieves managed to open the door, she said. The 100-pound generator was dragged out of the company's lot through a hole that was cut in the 8-foot-high barbed-wire fence, Anderson said.

"Our truck will be locked from now on," Anderson said.

Locked trucks haven't been an insurmountable obstacle for this group of thieves, who have made a habit of stealing tools from service vans by breaking the windows, often the wing window, according to Hart and some of the companies hit.

Tri-State Plumbing & Heating Inc. was robbed twice in 16 days - once at its 120 E. Antietam St. lot and again when an employee took a company truck home, said owner Mike Mcallister.

On Aug. 31, the thief or thieves climbed over a 7-foot-high fence, broke the driver's side window of a work van and took a cordless drill, a voltage tester, an amp probe and a first aid kit totaling $650 in value, Mcallister said.

What Mcallister found strange was the power tools were left behind, making him think the thieves were scared away.

Between Sept. 14 and 15, two drills, bit sets and power saws with blades - totaling almost $2,000 in value- were stolen from a company van parked in the 400 block of Liberty Street.

In both instances, the vans were accessed through the wing window and were parked in well-lighted areas, he said.

For now, Mcallister is locking his power tools together and considering putting cages on the van windows.

After eight years in business, Mcallister said he's fortunate he hasn't been robbed before this.

Hart recommends that companies keep their service trucks locked and parked in well-lighted areas, and report any suspicious activity.

Anyone with information about the thefts can call Hagerstown City Police at 301-790-3700.

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