Bold thieves pull off a chilling heist
34 air conditioners taken from roof of former mall
By JOHN DIEDRICH
Posted: Aug. 2, 2005
Milwaukee police are investigating the theft of 34 commercial-sized air conditioners, swiped from the roof of the now-vacant former Northridge Mall sometime last month, quite possibly with the help of a crane.
The units, valued at $75,000, were stolen between July 13 and 25 and reported Monday, police said.
Police didn't have the dimensions of the units, but detectives think the thieves may have needed a crane to lift the loot.
"These things are large," Anne E. Schwartz, department spokeswoman, said Tuesday. "This isn't just something that would take a couple of guys to carry. This would take some measure of equipment to move. We are trying to figure out how it happened and when it happened."
Police had not identified any suspects Tuesday.
The mall, now owned by Tucker Development of Highland Park, Ill., closed in 2003. Company officials have not said what will happen to the old mall, though other businesses have opened nearby. The mall and other stores are in a development now known as Granville Station.
An official from Tucker did not return a call for comment on Tuesday.
"The property is not being used as a mall, so maybe it would not be strange to see a large piece of equipment parked there," said Schwartz, who added that the brazen nature of the crime also might have thrown off suspicion. "Like, 'Oh, come on. Who would be stealing an air conditioner or two?' "
The theft was reported by an employee who does maintenance on the old mall.
The thieves tried to cover their tracks. After grabbing the air conditioners, they replaced the metal housing surrounding them.
"They did it very sophisticatedly," Schwartz said.
More air conditioners reported stolen
16 units were taken from former bowling alley
By JOHN DIEDRICH
Posted: Aug. 3, 2005
Thieves swiped jumbo rooftop air conditioners from at least two unused buildings in recent months, leading police to conclude that there are brazen, sophisticated criminals targeting vacant businesses on Milwaukee's northwest side.
8/2/05: 34 air conditioners taken from roof of former mall
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On Wednesday, police said someone stole 16 air conditioners, weighing several tons apiece and together worth $300,000, from a former bowling alley at N. 73rd and W. Florist streets in late June.
A day earlier police reported that thieves took 34 air conditioners, valued at $75,000, from the roof of the former Northridge Mall near N. 76th St. and W. Brown Deer Road sometime in mid-July. The earlier theft was not disclosed until Wednesday.
Detectives think there is a strong possibility that the thefts are connected because they are so similar, said Anne E. Schwartz, police spokeswoman.
"It is a very bold crime," Schwartz said. "This is a crime that cost the victim hundreds of thousands of dollars to remedy."
Investigators think the thieves must have had industrial equipment, such as a crane, to snatch the heavy loot, Schwartz said. They are investigating where the stolen goods may have gone, which may include being sold as scrap or being used on another building. Because both of the buildings are unused, people passing by may not have noticed that a crime was being committed, Schwartz said.
The former bowling alley is owned by Jack L. Marcus Co. and is being remodeled for a possible sale or other use, said Michael Watton, an attorney representing the company in a dispute with its insurance company, which has refused to cover the theft.
The insurance company, which Watton refused to identify, is claiming that the theft isn't covered because the building was vacant. Watton said it isn't vacant, it's being remodeled.
He declined to comment on exactly when the equipment was stolen or how the heist was discovered.