AUSTIN (KXAN) — A north Austin plant nursery said someone has broken into their shop four times in the last two months, stealing about $49,000 in tools, products and items—including a forklift that was later found.
The thefts started in January, with the latest break-in overnight Monday.
It’s left Garden Seventeen owner Rodney Stoutenger feeling tired and exhausted.
“It’s the ‘living on edge’ part that feels the worst about all of this,” he said. “It’s exhausting. Anytime our phone beeps, we’re awake…we’re alert to it.”
The first theft happened Jan. 12. The suspect broke in through a window and took a small bag before he left. The second theft happened three days later. Stoutenger said the thief took tools from the shed and the entire supply of hammocks and retail fanny packs. He damaged a garage door while breaking in, he said.
The next theft happened Feb. 9. This was when the thief stole the business’s forklift and drove it down the road where it was left behind Airport Boulevard. Stoutenger said luckily it was recovered that night after a search, but it still needs repairs. The thief loaded the forklift with much of the business’s retail inventory and tools needed for day-to-day business.
In the most recent theft, the thief tried to steal the coffee trailer outside Garden Seventeen. However, the trailer got stuck when the man was trying to leave, and the suspect left. The attempted theft left the trailer base damaged, which will cost about $5,000.
Video surveillance shows the same male suspect in each burglary, Stoutenger said.
Stoutenger said video surveillance shows the thief looking at the forklift during the second theft. He believes he is planning the next theft during each robbery.
He said Garden Seventeen is not the only business affected by the series of burglaries. Stoutenger has been in touch with business owners on Lamar Boulevard, Airport Boulevard and Anderson Lane who have surveillance video showing the same suspect. The businesses believe there are two people working together, but Stoutenger has only seen the same man enter and steal from Garden Seventeen.
The break-ins are the latest trial for the business—from opening during a pandemic to the 2021 freeze for which the business is still waiting on insurance reimbursements. Stoutenger said he’s thankful for the community’s support.
The business has added more cameras, and they have talked about taking overnight shifts to watch cameras in case the suspect returns.
“I think day-to-day everyone feels a little nervous,” Stoutenger said. “It feels just as violating and gross to the team as it does to me as the owner.”
KXAN has reached out to the Austin Police Department for updates on these incidents. This article will be updated when information is received.