Pierce County deputies arrested a suspect who stole thousands of dollars worth of construction materials from a home development site and tried to sell the items online. Crimes like this increase the cost for homebuyers, a home developer said.
Leaders with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office said at least three suspects entered a home and stole wiring, sheetrock, and OSB on Woodland Avenue East in Puyallup on October 23 at 1:30 a.m.
Surveillance video captured two vehicles parked in front of the home that is currently being built – a dark colored PT Cruiser and a white box truck with a lift gate. The video later shows two suspects carrying loads of materials from the house to the truck.
#EXCLUSIVE: I just got new surveillance video capturing two people stealing thousands of dollars worth of material from a Puyallup home being built. What a suspect posted on Facebook that led to an arrest & how this is increasing the cost for homebuyers on @kiro7seattle at 6 p.m. pic.twitter.com/IVFgbEA9Od
— Louie Tran (@louie_tran) November 9, 2023
The total cost of repairs and stolen property is estimated to be at least $7,000, deputies told KIRO 7.
A Pierce County investigator later spotted the white box truck about seven minutes away from the scene on 140th Street Court East.
Deputies said the investigator recognized the vehicle from a photo and connected it to a home where he had previously recovered stolen construction materials over the past year.
He drove to the home and discovered the white truck was parked at the property.
The investigator later went on Facebook Marketplace and discovered the suspect that he saw earlier had construction materials for sale on his account.
Deputies served a search warrant at the home and arrested 32-year-old Zebadiah Biss, of Puyallup. They discovered other stolen property at the scene.
He was arrested for second-degree burglary and trafficking stolen property.
When asked why he was stealing, he told investigators he was trying to get his life back together.
In the surveillance footage that we received, two people were spotted stealing in the video.
When asked if deputies are searching for a second suspect, authorities said the case is under investigation.
Investigators believe there may be other victims involved.
Deputies are asking builders, who have had materials stolen from them and have surveillance video of the truck, to contact the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office.
If you believe you are a victim, you are also asked to email the sheriff’s office at email@example.com.
BUYING ITEMS ONLINE:
Sgt. Darren Moss, public information officer with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, said theft is one of the key issues affecting the county.
“We’ve been seeing this a lot,” he said.
“I was seeing this every morning, seeing construction theft, people stealing gas from construction vehicles,” he described his experience after being promoted to sergeant in 2018.
“We believe some of them were using them for their own construction projects. In other cases, we knew that it was, people were down and out, drug users and were trying to sell it online and sell it to friends to make easy money,” he said.
Moss said thieves are aware that the cost of construction materials is rising, and are using this knowledge to sell stolen items online, including Facebook Marketplace.
While some items sold online are legitimate, a number of items may be stolen, he said.
“When COVID hit, all construction materials just shot through the roof. So to build a home, it started to cost exponentially more than it had a couple years ago. And we’re still seeing that today,” he said. “They (thieves) know they have a market to sell it and unfortunately they can make a lot of money doing this kind of thing. That’s why it’s important for us to go out and find these guys who are constantly doing this over and over again.”
Moss stressed to us that the issue is important to the sheriff’s office, however, limited resources are affecting their ability to catch the thieves.
“Theft is a huge problem, but because violent crime is up, that’s what we have to focus on,” he explained. “We don’t have a large unit to go after misdemeanor-level crimes.”
Moss told us that residential burglaries have gone down by 15% this year, compared to the previous five years, and non-residential burglaries have also decreased by 10% in the same period.
However, he said people should still take proactive steps to safeguard their belongings, including locking up their property, installing security cameras, and hiring security, if necessary.
He also urged people to think before they buy any items online.
“Not only could you be getting a bad deal and getting stuff that doesn’t work, but you can also get something that is stolen that belongs to someone else,” he said. “Every single one of these cases we solve, we’re preventing possibly hundreds and hundreds of future thefts occurring as well.”
BURGLARIES INCREASING COST FOR HOMEBUYERS:
We spoke with Scott Walker, vice president of Rush Residential, the development company behind the home that was burglarized.
Walker said the neighborhood has 30 lots and 20 of them are currently occupied with families.
He said theft is a weekly occurrence for his business and for many others in the industry.
He told us that he loses roughly five to 10 thousand dollars worth of materials from burglaries on a monthly basis, which creates weeks-long delays, and ultimately raises the cost for homebuyers by thousands of dollars.
“That might drive the average cost of a home up by $5,000 just due to theft. If you run those numbers, then the impact to the end consumer when we’re recovering cost could be three times that amount based on their 30 year mortgage,” he explained.