Caller foils theft at site

Prince William County police thwarted two would-be thieves Tuesday night at a parkway construction site in Woodbridge, a crime often and easily committed, local law enforcement officials said Thursday.

Police arrested two Maryland men, Raymond C. Custis of Chesapeake Beach and Jeffery Van Scurlock of Mitchellville, following a tip from a resident who lived near the Rector Construction site on Prince William Parkway and saw two men load a truck around 11 p.m. Police said the two were attempting to steal $1,500 worth of copper tubing from the yet-to-be-completed Parkway Professional Building

Just minutes later, eight Prince William squad cars were on the scene, and, following a short pursuit, Custis and Van Scurlock were arrested.

Site superintendent Keith Shaffer said he felt “very lucky” for the way Tuesday nights incident ended.

“Id really like to know who that neighbor was,” Shaffer said. “Id take him out to lunch.”

Unlike this incident, most construction site thefts are successful.

Most occur at night and sites are usually unguarded prime targets for burglars. The thefts have been a persistent problem for both contractors and law enforcement agencies alike, said Ist Sgt. Eric Jackson, who supervises major property cases.

Many sites robbed are in heavily populated areas, giving the perpetrators carte blanche to come and go as they please.

The burglars usually come from outside of the area and target construction zones, knowing exactly what to steal. This leads Shaffer, whose firm is constructing office buildings for Burgess & Niple Engineering on the lot where the larceny took place, to believe that most of the people committing such crimes are construction workers themselves.

“They know the stuff they steal is easy to get rid of,” said Shaffer, who regularly has 40 to 60 people working for him. “You never know if you could have guys on the inside stealing from you.”

Copper can be sold at the scrap yard for slightly under cost (roughly $45 a piece), Shaffer said.

But much larger items have been illegally taken from county sites.

Last year, there were at least 10 instances of theft of heavy equipment, including backhoes, which are worth at least $60,000 a piece.

On April 7, 2001, five earth-moving vehicles were stolen from three different county businesses.

The vehicles are loaded onto a transporter and then taken out of the area, where they are either sold or rented out, Jackson said.

Police have charged Custis and Scurlock with grand larceny and they face a Feb. 26 court date. Custis bond has been set at $10,000. Scurlocks bond is set at $15,000.

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