CLEVELAND - Scrap metal thieves are becoming so brazen, they're now now taking parts off of gas grills at Walmart in the middle of the shopping day, according to Cleveland's Environmental Crimes Task Force.
Sgt. Andrew Ezzo said the crooks took nearly 100 pounds in valves and other parts from display gas grills at the Walmart located on Brookpark Road in Cleveland.
"The only way they found out is because they sold a couple of display models, and people had to bring them back and said, 'Where's our parts?'" said Ezzo. "They think they can take whatever they want. They think they're entitled to it."
Ezzo said his task force has reported a series of thefts at major companies in all parts of the city. Two crooks were caught on surveillance video at Menyhart Plumbing on Lorain Road stealing thousands of pounds in antique home heating radiators. Owner Peter Menyhart said the task force used his surveillance video and its relationship with area scrap yards to make an arrest in less than a day.
"Basically anything those two guys could physically carry, they carried out of here," Menyhart said. "They didn't have any money, so they're like, 'Hey, lets go steal some scrap, and we could go drop it off at 7 a.m. at the scrap yard and get some cash.'"
The scrap yard involved reported the stolen items, and police found suspects in just a few hours.
Ezzo said his task force is in a battle, but the efforts of his team have reduced the number of thefts so far in 2018.
"In 2014, 2015 and 2016, the State of Ohio led the nation in scrap theft," Ezzo said. "The deal that we make with the scrap yards is if I find the victim, the victim is going to pay you whatever you paid for it, that way the scrap yard is not out the money."
Menyhart said his company will add additional security cameras. He had nothing but praise for Ezzo and his team.
"He said, 'I'm going to put out a bulletin. I'm going to catch these guys before the day is out.' And, damn it, that's what he did," Menyhart said.