NAPLES — David Jones’ business motto is: Measuring success one customer at a time.
For the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, dealing with a rash of burglaries in the East Naples industrial park where Jones’ business is located could be called: Dealing with one hit at a time.
The burglaries of eight Collier County businesses’ work vehicles from an industrial park off Airport-Pulling Road over Fourth of July weekend have cost the owners tens of thousands of dollars.
Deputies say they have two suspects who were seen in a surveillance video getting into a newer white Chevrolet van between the hours of midnight on and 4 a.m. on Tuesday, July 5.
Deputies say the thieves were organized and are seeking the businesses out specifically for power tools, tools of the trade and copper. Deputies are not able to put a dollar amount on how much in total was stolen as it still very early in the investigation, officials said Thursday.
“This is not your typical burglary where they strip copper out and take it to the recycle center,” said Detective James Lockerby, who said it was the first time he had seen a string of burglaries like his. “This is with a purpose.”
Lockerby said the suspects were seeking this equipment to either sell or to use to open up another business.
Ralph Perez, who has owned Mercury Rising HVAC — 3963 C Exchange Road — since 2003, said more than $16,000 worth of equipment was stolen by the thieves from Perez’s two work vans.
“They were professionals. Really knew what they wanted,” Perez said. “It was pretty devastating for us, when we got to work and had no tools. We felt pretty naked there at the moment, nothing to work with.”
According to crime reports obtained by the Sheriff’s Office, the suspects had turned Perez’s neighbors’ surveillance cameras upwards to avoid any bit of the incident being caught on camera.
That said, another business owner’s surveillance camera caught brief glimpses of the suspects, but deputies are not saying which one. The 25-minute surveillance video caught the suspects in masks and gloves drilling holes into work vans and taking out the equipment. The locks were not recovered, the report said.
“It’s better the bad guys don’t know who has camera footage,” Lockerby said about not revealing whose camera caught the culprits. “(Because) one, they would go somewhere else, or two, they would try to defeat the security system before they do the crime and they would also know who has the security cameras.”
David Jones never had any problems in the 13 years he has owned Jones Air Conditioning and Electric, 3920 Progress Ave., until Tuesday. Jones said more than $10,000 worth of equipment was stolen this past weekend, adding it was the second hit in three weeks. Between the two burglaries he has lost more than $13,000 in equipment and the locks of his work vans were torched, he said.
Among the items stolen from his business, he said, are copper wires and all related equipment; three tanks, worth $2,000 each, containing oxygen, acetylene and nitrogen; and all of his electronic digital equipment.
According to the Sheriff’s Office incident report, Storm Force, 4160 Corporate Square, had three work vehicles burglarized. Though surveillance video caught the suspects on camera, the quality is too grainy. But, according the report, the video does show a subject walking to the company’s van, grabbing equipment and take it to another van.
Mike Nourse, the owner of Mike Nourse Custom Homes, 1076 Industrial Blvd., told deputies his work vehicle was burglarized and knew immediately because the vehicle’s registration and paperwork was lying on the ground next to the van and the locks were broken, according to the report.
All four work vans from 2nd Century Plumbing, 1133 Industrial Blvd., were burglarized, according to the report, and Excel Electric, 3920 Progress Ave., was also hit. Copper wiring and power tools were stolen from the owner’s work van, according to the report.
Sweetwater Pool Service, 1157 Industrial Blvd., and Security Barn Condo Associates, 1133 Industrial Blvd., also reported thefts.
According to the report, the suspects drove to the back of the neighboring business to the south, parked in the grassy area and squeezed between the fence and shrub area to gain entry to the fenced lot. The bushes showed freshly broken branches and slight tire tracks in the grass, the report said.
Deputies are linking the case to a rash of burglaries in the area, according to the report.
Lockerby said the best way for businesses to protect themselves from thieves is to invest in any type of lighting and security cameras. Also, Lockerby recommends business owners keep an inventory of all their items, including tools, and their serial numbers.
“A good inventory system help us, so we know what to look for,” Lockerby said.