Authorities probing thieves’ inside knowledge after theft of $30K+ in Jefferson County equipment

Published 4:11 pm Wednesday, April 21, 2021

PORT ACRES — County officials and police are investigating the possibility that last week’s theft of approximately $30,000 in municipal lawn equipment was orchestrated by someone with inside knowledge of the facility.

On Wednesday morning, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office made public news of a large-scale theft at Precinct 3 Barn, located in the 5700 block of Jade Avenue in Port Arthur.

Police believe the crime occurred during overnight hours between April 15 and 16.

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Stolen items include:

  • An 18’ black Perkins Lowboy with a ramp held up by Gorilla Lifts. It also has a rectangle cage on the front of the trailer
  • Two red Ferris brand IS3200 61 inch zero turn mowers
  • Six Waguyama brand weed eaters
  • Two red Yamaha Weedeaters
  • Three red Waguyama pole saws
  • Two yellow Stihl Chainsaws
  • Three Orange Stihl large backpack style blowers

Precinct 3 Commissioner Michael Shane Sinegal cut right to the chase when asked by Port Arthur Newsmedia if news of the thefts surprised him.

Michael Shane Sinegal

“It pissed me off for lack of a better term,” he said. “We’re talking about $30,000 to $35,000 of lawn equipment. I was pretty upset about it, because one of my staff didn’t notify me that the cameras were down.”

Sinegal said whoever broke into the locked conex buildings also breached eight-feet high fencing that surrounds the area.

“I try not to cast disparities within our group, but it’s like someone that knew our operation,” Sinegal said, adding cameras have been disconnected at the facility for sometime due to ongoing remodeling.

“I’m trying to protect the taxpayers’ money. Knowing that place is out there in the middle of nowhere, we should always have cameras or a security system. Right now, the cameras are working and I told my guys I want the place lit up like a federal prison.”

Capt. Crystal Holmes said there is no indication more than one person participated in the thefts but noted it was a lot of equipment for one person to take away.

In saying the facility is visible from Texas State Highway 73, investigators are assuming the theif or thieves brought a truck with them because no trucks were taken from the facility.

If anyone has information about the thefts, contact Crime Stoppers at 409-833-TIPS (8477), or download the P3 app. (Stephen Hemelt/The News)

“The fact that the county barn was able to provide serial numbers for each of the items stolen due to meticulous records makes it easier to trace if the stolen items are taken and sold to pawn shops or other types of facilities,” Holmes said. “However, if they are sold to individuals, it does make it a little bit harder. We’re hoping with such a large amount of property and the size of the equipment, somebody saw what happened. We hope neighbors would pay attention to a lowboy trailer or new equipment in their area and contact us.”

Holmes said the beginning of Spring and Summer normally lead to an increase in lawn equipment theft.

“I don’t know if somebody is actually trying to start a business or if they have taken it over state lines,” Holmes said. “Those are all things we have to consider.”

If anyone has information about the thefts, he or she is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 409-833-TIPS (8477), or download the P3 app. You will not be asked your name and could be eligible for a cash reward.

Sinegal said while the old camera system at Barn 3 has been restored, new cameras are being installed that attach to his phone and others and will send an alert anytime someone crosses the fence line.

“I hate a thief more than anything in the world,” he said. “Hopefully we can locate one or two of those items and I would ask the D.A. to throw the book at them if we can.”

Sinegal said after speaking with the Texas Department of Transportation, he was informed there were no surveillance cameras on Highway 73 North, West Port Arthur Road or Taylor Bayou Bridge that could help authorities locate suspects.

“I have reiterated to the staff that that it might not be their personal stuff but it is their tax dollars that have been violated,” Sinegal said. “We have to replace that stuff to operate the business of Precinct 3.”