Burglar caught on camera breaking into North Austin garden store four times
AUSTIN, Texas - A North Austin garden store says they've been burglarized four times in the past two months.
The store, called Garden Seventeen, says they've lost about $50,000, not including the damage recently done when the suspect tried to steal their coffee trailer.
Garden Seventeen opened in June 2020. They've gone through the pandemic, 2021 freeze, and now four break-ins.
"It's been a rough three years. The surrounding community has been awesome," owner Rodney Stoutenger said.
The first two times in January, the suspect could be seen using carts and grow pots to collect materials.
At the beginning of February, he was back at it again, stealing a forklift, then abandoning it. He also got away with lots of tools.
Stoutenger says he appreciates the police response, but wishes more could be done to catch the suspect.
"I wish there was a little bit less red tape. The forklift only goes 8 mph, their protocol was to search the property, and I have a gut feeling they would've crossed paths. He was only four blocks away when he abandoned the forklift," Stoutenger said.
He says the suspect seems to take his time.
"He doesn't rush until we have the business owner have made that 911 call," he said.
"This is the forklift, so now we have to go through the trouble of undoing the propane tank every time we close and don't use it, so he doesn't steal it," he said. "Those are the gates and the alarm units that he's broken several times, you can see the new welding and such on the lock."
On Feb. 20, the suspect tried to steal a coffee trailer, but couldn't get past a hill and abandoned it, but it's still damaged.
"None of the products or machines were secured for travel so we lost quite a bit in there," Stoutenger said.
He says other businesses in the area have also been hit.
As for his message to the suspect, he says, "I'd hire him at this point, he's efficient, he's effective at what he does, you know what I mean. Really, the reality is I get it. If this is for a need, I can understand that. Just ask for help... at a certain point, we have to make a living, too."
He says he and his team keep their phones turned up for any alerts.
"We're sleeping on edge. We're not really getting a full night's sleep," he said.
He says they've added more cameras, more lighting, randomly playing alarm sounds at night, and taking turns monitoring surveillance cameras.
"Just ask for help if you need it but other than that, leave us alone, I'm exhausted," he said.
Stoutenger says for every case either a police report or 311 report has been filed.
"These cases are assigned to detectives and the investigation is ongoing. We have identified a person of interest. In order to protect the integrity of the investigation, the Department does not have further information to provide regarding these incidents," APD says.
Austin 311 says ,"all APD non-emergency service requests are sent immediately to APD once the service request is submitted."