Several businesses along a stretch of Interstate 35 say they've have been the victims of an increase in thefts and break-ins, specifically in the past year. Dale Wood, owner of the Great American Equipment Company near I-35 and Walzem, said his business has been hit 10 times in the past year, causing him to lose thousands of dollars worth of merchandise.
Wood, who has been at the location since 2006, said he’s tried every avenue to prevent the thefts from happening, to no avail.
“It's extremely expensive and frustrating. We've estimated our losses in excess of $100,000,” Wood said. “We've requested that they patrol the area more and they just can't put enough police presence in the area.”
About 2 miles away at I-35 and Weidner, Kyle Yuchinski, owner of Texas Truck Tops, said he is experiencing much of the same.
“The same type of break-in, and it's been over and over,” Yuchinski said. “It's repetitive and they keep coming back.”
Yuchinski’s business has been hit three times in the past four months. Most recently crooks were caught on surveillance video stealing a $50,000 trailer.
“I think the most frustrating part is not just losing the merchandise and what I've worked hard to gain,” Yuchinski said. “But it's the fact that there’s a lack of police presence, the general presence in the area.”
A few blocks away from Yuchinski’s business, near I-35 and O’Connor, is Wayland Baptist University, another victim of the recent thefts.
“Routinely we would see cars broken into, things like that, but those are expected in a location like this right off the highway,” said Dr. Jim Antenen, executive director and dean for Wayland Baptist University. “But more recently, the high-end items have been stolen.”
Antenen said two lawn mowers worth $17,000 each were stolen. Though one was recovered, it was stolen again a short time later.
All three businesses said the thefts are a dramatic increase from years past and Wayland Baptist University has gone so far as to create their own police department to offer further security.
For those specializing in the sale of retail items, however, the increase in thefts is likely caused by what they call a decrease in police presence in the area.
“Just because you don't see us, doesn't mean we're not there,” said Roger Zuniga, spokesman for the San Antonio Police Department. “We're always in the neighborhoods, patrolling the area, patrolling the streets, so we are there."
Zuniga said overall crime is down across the city, but could not provide details on whether crime was up, down, or had stayed the same in this specific area.
In addition to providing free resources to business owners to help combat crime, Zuniga said officers are also equally distributed throughout the city and the I-35 corridor is getting the attention it needs.
“If you talk to the business owners up and down I-35, I'd believe that they'd tell you, that's a wash,” Yuchinski said. “No matter how strong, you can build a fortress, but if somebody steals a $50,000 truck and rams it through the front of your building, there's absolutely nothing you can do. It's going to take police presence, continually, to really put a hamper on it.”