The saga of the stolen trailer; stolen pit/trailer ends up in Groves

Published 5:51 pm Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A Port Arthur man his located his barbecue pit/trailer, which was stolen during Tropical Storm Harvey. But it’s unlikely he’ll be able to reclaim it.

The issue gets more complicated when you add in the fact that the owner did not file a police report until he spotted his trailer nearly six months later at a repair shop in Beaumont and learned it is now in the possession of Groves Police Department.

To muddy the waters even more, the trailer, which was stolen from the 2800 block of Gulfway Drive, had false plates when it was found and the serial number was missing.

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The thief or thieves had a seven-day head start by the time Harold Collins got back into town after the flooding of Tropical Storm Harvey.

“I never filed a complaint, I put it in God’s hands,” Collins told the Port Arthur News.

Then about a week or so ago, Collins was driving through the area and saw his trailer at a Beaumont repair shop. He said he called Beaumont Police, who in turn met him at the shop.

That’s when he learned the trailer had a new owner. He said he later filed a report with Port Arthur Police Department.

Groves City Marshal Norman Reynolds Jr. was able to fill in some of the blanks in the story. Several months back, he said, shortly after Tropical Storm Harvey, a Groves deputy saw the trailer being pulled down the road improperly and stopped the driver. He noted there was a lock on the hitch and the trailer had been chained to the bumper of the truck.

“The man in possession of it at the time was unable to convince him (officer) it was his trailer,” Reynolds said. “The officer elected to bring the trailer and pit to the police department and store it, giving the man the benefit of the doubt and time to bring forward proof of ownership.”

But the man never showed back up.

So the trailer sat. And sat. And sat.

A legal hearing was held and the trailer and pit were awarded to GPD.

“About five months later we brought it to the Auto Theft Task Force. We already knew there were three hurdles to overcome for our police department:

  • First, the trailer had fictitious plates that did not belong to the owner or we would have been able to contact him,” he said.
  • “Second, it didn’t have a serial number so we couldn’t track it that way.
  • Third, he (Collins) never came in and filed a complaint.”

One remedy could be to remove the barbecue pit from the trailer. But that would involve a number of steps, including another hearing in a Justice of the Peace court, where Collins would be required to prove ownership of both the trailer and the pit.

“I would love for him to prove it is his and be able t get his property back, that’s the best-case scenario for everybody,” he said.

But Collins would not be able to get a new serial number stamped on the trailer per law; a governmental entity such as a police department can after an item is seized.

“I’ve never known us to auction off stuff. We store items most of the time. Under these circumstances we couldn’t auction it off if we wanted to because it doesn’t have a serial number so no one can possess it,” he said. “That’s why, after almost six months, it was time to decide what to with this this trailer and pit sitting on our lot.”

So the decision was made to repair the trailer tongue that was damaged and “hopefully use it for something for the city.”