The owner of a Wellington Street West business says the man who stole $10,000 in wood from its lumber yard knew what he was doing.
Andre Belisle has been the dealer-owner of JL’s Home Hardware Building Centre for about nine years and told GuelphToday on Wednesday that the theft in the early morning hours on Monday was unlike any other he has experienced to date.
“For us at this level is unusual,” said Belisle. “As a businessperson you never want to see this happen. It seems to be the stuff that is going on right now, so we just have to continue to operate our business and look forward to the future.”
In a news release on Tuesday, the Guelph Police Service said a man used a stolen white GMC pickup with a dump-style box and the number 83 on the driver’s side front fender to force open the gate at the business and proceeded to load about $10,000 in lumber on the flatbed. The truck was reported stolen from Kitchener.
The man is described as Caucasian with a dark brush cut, wearing a black jacket and black pants.
Belisle said he knew something was up later in the morning when the gate was found damaged and left open.
“You would need a capable truck to do that,” said Belisle. "Fortunately for this guy our systems are efficient for loading, so he knew what he was doing and he was able to do it in a pretty good amount of time.”
“He got enough lumber to do definitely a few decks,” he added.
Belisle and staff used video surveillance and the store’s inventory system to help estimate the extent of the loss. He hopes someone from the public may recognize the man from the still image released by police.
“I think at this point it’s kind of out of our hands. There isn’t much that we can do,” said Belisle. “The problem with lumber is it is a commodity product and very difficult to track.”
He noted that the price of building materials is on the rise but it’s difficult to say whether the lumber was stolen for a project or to resell.
“It’s hard to believe when you look at catalytic converters and copper wire and a lot of construction products and you see all of this stuff happening right now,” said Belisle.
Sgt. Phil Perrins of General Investigations and Special Projects at Guelph Police Service said by email on Wednesday the lumber would not be difficult to move or sell anywhere.
“It’s been a while since I built my fence,” said Perrins, “but I’m fairly sure that lumber isn’t specifically marked by the retailer. The best we’d be able to do is compare by measurement, quantity, and type.”
Although Guelph police are tracking break and enters as being more frequent in the city, Perrins said the department hasn’t seen a marked increase in mass commercial thefts.
Belisle said JL’s is insured, but a theft like this still has an effect on business.
“We are a big operation in town, but we are a family-run business and independently owned,” said Belisle. “We are lucky to be in a place like Guelph. We have a lot of great customers and it’s a very good community to be in for operating a business.”
The incident remains under investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call Const. Mark Medulun of the Guelph Police General Investigation and Special Projects Unit at 519-824-1212, ext. 7346, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, leave an anonymous message for Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or leave an anonymous message online at www.csgw.tips.