The DeKalb County Habitat for Humanity was left with nothing more than a few old shovels and rakes after the organization’s storage facility was robbed for the third time the weekend of May 21.
Employees of the storage facility behind Belvedere United Methodist Church on Midway Road arrived to work the morning of May 23 to find that the locks to their large steel storage units had been pried open again.
“It started happening several weeks ago and the first thing that we noticed is that the padlocks had been cut and the containers opened. That time we were missing some very expensive tools like a compound miter saw–a worm drive saw, expensive equipment like that,” John Shaffer, executive director for DeKalb County Habitat for Humanity said.
Shaffer said that the crooks must have taken a truck and then loaded it with as many tools as they could the first time. After it happened once, Shaffer and his staff assumed the crooks wouldn’t come back because they had taken all of the valuables that would bring a quick sale.
“We thought, ‘OK, they’re not coming back,’ because they literally scattered hammers on the outside perimeter and obviously just threw them down and ran,” Shaffer said.
According to Shaffer, a few days later someone broke in again and this time they did take the hammers, screwdrivers and all the little tools. Shaffer said that after the second time they began to think it was a more serious problem so they installed the padlocks underneath a steel box “where you could barely get your hands on [them],” but the thieves managed to get around that too.
“They just cleaned us out. This is what we’re down to, real crumby old rakes and shovels,” Shaffer said as he looked over the empty shelves in the storage unit where $9,000 to $10,000 worth of tools used to sit.
Shaffer said that he thinks part of the problem is the isolated area that the storage units are in. They are behind the church and not easily seen from the road. He also said that a neighbor across the street had been robbed twice and had approximately $7,500 worth of air conditioning equipment and copper piping stolen from his home. Shaffer said the police are working on the case but have not come up with any leads.
“Before Easter the air conditioners of the church were massacred and stripped of their copper and about the time of our second break in they broke into the church and stole some sound equipment,” Shaffer said.
He said that the offices and storage facilities have been at Belvedere United Methodist for 14 years but admitted that now they will most likely have to move.
“A few churches have responded that they might have some space. We’re going to have to get more realistic and have offices and maybe some off-site storage that is more secure,” Shaffer said.
Although the robberies did not derail any current housing projects, Shaffer said that it could affect future projects if they don’t get the tools they need soon. They are also hoping that the community steps forward and offers some temporary free storage space.
“This kind of took the wind out of our sails. The big problem of course is the hammers. We need 30 of them for the volunteers,” he said.
Shaffer said that Habitat for Humanity, being an ecumenical Christian organization, is all about forgiveness but if he came face-to-face with the criminals he would want to ask them why they would rob a place whose main purpose is to help people.
“We’re helping people get back into homes, we’re helping people who are really down on their luck and they’re living in terrible circumstances, overcrowding or a house where the roof leaks,” Shaffer said.
DeKalb Habitat for Humanity is accepting and any lightly used tools and cash donations, which can be made at www.dekalbhabitat.org.