As both city and county law enforcement continue to investigate thousands of dollars in construction site thefts, a Stanaford business owner said such thefts are nothing new in Raleigh County — and he wants it to stop.

Woody Dacal is co-owner of American Electric Equipment Inc. in Stanaford, and recently, $20,000 in circuit breakers were stolen from his business, which supplies equipment to the mining industry. He has been in business 20 years, and for the last 15-20, equipment thefts have plagued his business and several industrial areas in Raleigh County, he said.

“It’s very frustrating,” he said. “The equipment they stole was going on a $50,000 machine that was ready to go. Now, we’re having to delay the shipment.

“There’s probably a hundred stories you could tell about these guys. I’ve been in business for 20 years, and in the mining industry for 50 years. For the past 15 to 20 years, this has been a common practice.”

Dacal said whoever is responsible for stealing the equipment cut through the hinges of a 200-pound steel door.

Stealing such equipment means big money for thieves, Dacal said. A breaker that would cost an honest person $1,000 would sell for between $200 and $400 on the black market.

While the thieves cash in, businesses like Dacal’s suffer. The problem became so bad that 10 years ago Dacal had to hire a security firm that patrolled the premises seven days a week — which cost him $30,000 a year. Four to five months ago, that firm went out of business. He does have people doing security work for him, but he does not have another firm or security system in place at this time — and he is sure the thieves know this.

It is not only Dacal’s business that suffers, but also the businesses he serves. When equipment is due to be shipped out, it is when another business needs it — now.

“It’s often right on their deadlines,” he said. “But it’s out of our control, and we have to round up something to replace what has been stolen.”

The Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the theft at Dacal’s business, and at this time, he has not heard from deputies about the investigation’s progress, he said.

Beckley police and sheriff’s investigators have said they continue to follow leads in the cases. No arrests have been made.

According to information from Beckley police, more than $130,000 in construction site breaker boxes have been stolen in the city limits alone since September 2003. The most recent thefts in the city were at two Rite Aids under construction — one on Harper Road and the other on Robert C. Byrd Drive — on Sept. 14.

About one month later, the sheriff’s department began investigating a burglary at the Logan’s Roadhouse site off Eisenhower Drive where similar equipment was stolen, according to reports. One week ago, similar equipment was stolen from a Lowe’s site in Fayetteville.

— E-mail: apridemore@register-herald.com

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