Community News Service
The day after state police began investigating the theft of $10,000 worth of tools from a Charlotte construction site, an ad popped up on Craigslist.
Titled “TOOLS I HAVE FOR SALE” with Milton as its location, it said in all capital letters: “I have several tools for sale I bought from Middlebury Fencing in the past few days, I won’t post any pictures but I will show in person to serious cash buyers only.”
The ad dated June 20 is the best lead so far in the theft last week that interrupted construction of Charlotte Crossings, a commercial building project along U.S. Route 7 just south of Ferry Road on the site of the former Vermont Wildflower Farm. Contractor Mike Dunbar and his wife Debbie Kassabian, who live nearby in Charlotte, purchased the 5-acre property with plans for a project designed for office, retail and restaurant uses.
Dunbar owns Middlebury Fence Company and RenoVaTe Construction; Kassabian works for a pharmaceutical company. Dunbar described the project as 75 percent built with a goal of opening by September.
The theft happened sometime on the night of June 18. When workers arrived just before 7 a.m. on June 19, they discovered that the locked trailer containing much of their tools and equipment had been broken into and many items were missing, according to police.
By 9:45 that morning, Dunbar posted on Facebook offering $3,000 for “any information that might lead to a conviction.”
When someone replied with an image of the Craigslist ad, Dunbar sent it to Vermont state troopers. But by the time troopers began to pursue the lead, the Craigslist item had been deleted.
The state police news release about the crime estimated the value of the items taken to be $10,410. The suspects would face charges of grand larceny, trespassing and unlawful mischief, police said.
Cpl. Andrew Leise, who is investigating the case, said that the only damage found was to the lock on the equipment trailer. The thieves “accessed the site from a field, but within that field there are no tire tread marks or footprints,” Leise explained.
Missing from the trailer were 40 different tools and pieces of equipment including saws, hammers, drills and bits, routers, nail guns, sanders, a Milwaukee chainsaw, a propane torch kit and a Honda 1000 watt generator.
Leise surmised that the suspects may have used “a large vehicle or SUV, or a smaller vehicle used to take multiple trips,” given the volume of equipment stolen.
Despite the incident, Dunbar’s team has continued work on the site with a small set of tools they bought to use until insurance money comes in to replace the stolen ones.
“I got an amazing response from the local community,” Dunbar said. “I got a call from the owner of Rice Lumber, Jim Carroll, and he offered to sell me tools at his cost. I also got emails from local builders who were willing to let me borrow tools. These guys – it’s their livelihood – their tools are everything and they’re offering to let me borrow them. That’s just unbelievable.”
As the investigation continues, Leise has some advice for contractors in order to prevent further thefts of this nature.
“For contractors or anyone who have tools on their property, having security other than a lock would be good, like a trail cam or motion floodlight so that we don’t have additional incidents like this,” he said.
Dunbar noted that he has installed a surveillance camera since the episode.
A full list of the items missing from the job trailer is online in the police press release about the incident. Anyone with information is asked to contact Leise at the Williston state police barracks at 878-7111.
Community News Service is a collaboration with the University of Vermont’s Reporting and Documentary Storytelling program.