Gulf Coast Soccer tries to recover after thefts

Published 11:01 am Saturday, April 8, 2017

On March 31 and April 3, two incidents of theft were reported at Gulf Coast Soccer Complex in Port Arthur. The Port Neches Police Department, which has jurisdiction over the soccer fields, is investigating.

Carol Beard, board member at Gulf Coast Soccer, said nothing new had been uncovered but that police were working on the situation.

“These things are difficult to track. The police suspect the (thieves) had a buyer lined up.”

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Beard mentioned if that were the case, the equipment would be impossible to track.

Beard said one of the items was pulled through a hole in the fence near the entrance gate.

In addition, she said the door to the barn house had been broken, where much of their equipment was stored.

The thefts occurred on Friday and Monday nights, just as the youth soccer held its opening season over the weekend.

“It wasn’t until Sunday that we realized our light tower had been stolen,” Beard said. “We didn’t realize it until we had to use the field that day.”

Beard said everything is located in the barn. Some items like a white cart that was stolen were in a section of the field that couldn’t be seen because of the barn. It wasn’t until someone actually walked there that they noticed it missing.

However, preventative steps had already been in place, like disabling one of the mowers that had been stolen.

“We think they might have put a rope around it and pulled it with an ATV or something,” Beard said.

She also said the thefts resembled something more like a ring of major thefts than of the smaller acts of burglary that had occurred at a Nederland Little League concession stand last month.

“I wouldn’t call it smalltime,” Beard said. “They stole over $10,000 in equipment just this weekend.”

And, in reminding that the thefts were being aimed at a nonprofit organization such as Gulf Coast, Beard said they were taking from the community.

“They’re stealing from children,” she said.

In the wake of these crimes, Beard said the community has been very supportive.

“We’ve raised almost $3,000 since the last time I checked,” Beard said in reference to the GoFundMe account Gulf Coast had set up.

“Families have come out to the fields and given money; businesses have donated. We’ve raised a little over $1,000 that way,” Beard said.

She credited such grassroots fundraising acts like a local coach personally contributing from his own business as one of the examples of the community positively responding.

Beard added that everyone in the community, or anyone with any information regarding the thefts, should contact PNPD if anything suspicious occurs.

“Be vigilant because it’s happening in our community — it’s not just us affected by it,” she said. “If something looks out of character, please call it in.”

“If you see someone after 9 p.m. working there and all the lights are off, that’s not how it’s supposed to be.”

In an attempt to counter future thefts, additional steps have been taken.

“We’ve had to take some pretty extreme measures to prevent this from happening again,” Beard said.

For example, on their remaining mowers, Gulf Coast volunteers have taken the wheels off their vehicles to discourage — and physically stop — anyone from stealing it.

“We have parked the tractor in front of the barn door and then taken the wheels off that,” Beard said.

“That also means it takes two hours of remediation from volunteers to put the wheels back on before they could get to work on the fields.”

Beard said, “It wastes time, it puts more backbreaking labor on them and that time could have been spent on mowing.”

Beard said, “If we can’t mow that field, kids can’t play. That’s 30 acres that have to be mowed. With just one mower, that would take 11 hours.

“All our kids need to play (soccer) is grass; but that grass has to be mowed safely.”

According to her, she would like the organization to take further steps to help prevent thefts, such as setting up a surveillance system, erecting a fence around the barn and something a little more shocking.

“I, personally, would like to electrify that fence,” she said.

Still, Beard was grateful for the community’s outreach.

“We appreciate the community’s support that we have received,” she said. “We’re grateful. We’ll rebound from this.”