Grass Valley businesses blame homeless camp residents for recent crimes
November 26, 2013
Business owners along Railroad Avenue, near Grass Valley's Bennett Street homeless camp, are blaming a recent rash of burglaries and vandalism incidents on the residents of that transient encampment.
"There is a direct correlation with the homeless camp up there and the burglaries," said Randy Young, owner of Carpet One Floor and Home. "It's not just one but a series of them."
Located at 330 Idaho Maryland Road, Young's was burglarized Nov. 15.
"It's to the point where I am thinking about putting concertina (razor) wire around the whole thing," Young said of his property.
Young's Carpet has reported stolen tools, computers and even security cameras, which were 20 feet in the air, Young said.
One theft of approximately $5 worth of copper from a trailer resulted in $800 worth of damage, he said.
In the last week, the Food Bank of Nevada County, Hills Flat Lumber, the 49er Family Fun Park and DeMartini RV Sales reported burglaries of their businesses, all within a few hundred feet of the Bennett Street encampment.
Three police reports referenced DeMartini RV Sales, most recently on Nov. 20, according to the Grass Valley Police Department and the Nevada County Sheriff's Office's respective incident logs.
"We do believe that they are related, in that the span of time and general location and proximity to known transient camps," said GVPD Sgt. Alex Gammelgard.
"There have been multiple contacts of folks in that area in the last few days … Unfortunately, there are no substantial leads at this point."
The forested hills behind DeMartini RV Sales have reportedly been a squatters' camp since at least the Great Depression, as noted in Juanita Browne's 1987 book, "A Tale of Two Cities and a Train."
Over the years, the camp has been raided by authorities but was repopulated even after being cleaned up by volunteers repeatedly.
The Food Bank, which provides food to those in need, has been the target of burglaries three times since the beginning of August, said Executive Director Toni Thompson.
"Whoever needs food, they just need to come here; we would never turn anyone away," Thompson said. "Just don't steal from us."
Most recently, an electric cord to the Food Bank's refrigerated truck was stolen Nov. 15, depriving it of power, according to GVPD incident logs and Thompson.
The truck had several hundred of the Food Bank's turkeys that were intended to be given away to families in need for the holiday.
"Luckily for us, we transferred those, thankfully," Thompson said.
However, still inside the truck were six crates of berries and pizzas. On the way out, the vandals left a "whole bunch of porno magazines" scattered about the parking lot, Thompson said.
"It was pure vandalism," she said.
While Thompson estimated the hefty refrigerator-powering cord will cost between $300 and $500 to replace, Gammelgard estimated the scrap value of the materials in the cord would only fetch a couple dozen dollars.
Earlier in August, the Food Bank reported that someone demolished a large industrial door and stole cables from the building that resulted in $10,000 worth of damage, in addition to stealing a van which was subsequently recovered. Thompson said the culprits left an apology note at the scene of the crime.
"What it has resulted in is extra foot patrols in the areas around the businesses," Gammelgard said.
But the business owners say they are now taking matters into their own hands.
"What we've done now is made an arrangement … to put digital security cameras on the whole center and record into a place they can't steal (the cameras)," Young said. "Hopefully we can catch them."
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.
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