Business owner frustrated by lack of notice about recent robberies

Published 12:16 am Wednesday, December 17, 2014

NATCHEZ — Dairy Queen owner Larry Gardner, whose business was one of several hit recently during a rash of burglaries, is frustrated he and other business owners weren’t given a heads-up.

“If we would have known this was going on, we could have caught them. We didn’t know there was a threat going on,” Gardner said.

Apparently, Dairy Queen, along with Rivergate Bowl, the Donut Shop, Home Hardware and at least one Vidalia business, were broken into recently.

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However, Lt. Craig Godbold of the City of Natchez Police Department, said he and other investigators do not think all of the burglaries were related.

“Two of them — Rivergate and Dairy Queen — were entered through the roof. The other two were not,” Godbold said. “We do not believe the same folks did all of these. We have leads on three of the burglaries currently. I’m not going to say which three. On two of the burglaries, the same people may be involved. The other two were just random. One of them, we think an employee may be involved.”

Godbold said information was not released to the media because “we’re still working these. I know some of the people are upset they haven’t read about this in the newspaper. If we put all of our stuff in the newspaper, the bad guys read the newspaper just like everybody else.”

Godbold said the thieves took “very little” from Rivergate Bowl, but were able to steal cash from the Dairy Queen. He wouldn’t provide an amount.

Gardner said two men, dressed head to two in black, entered the Dairy Queen at about 12:30 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 12.

“We have the whole thing on film,” Gardner said.

The burglars cut a hole through the roof of the business, making their way through layers of concrete, Styrofoam and a rubber membrane roof, he said.

“I don’t know how they missed the trusses,” Gardner said.

The men entered the building, each carrying backpacks.

“They brought with them the tools to do the job, obviously. I couldn’t believe they got through the conduit. Both were thin. One of them was tall. They knew what they were doing. They walked around, broke into stuff. They didn’t discover the safe right away.”

However, once the thieves found the safe at the Dairy Queen, they spent hours breaking into it.

“They were here from 12:30 to 3:30 a.m. They split the corner of the safe to get into it by busting through the concrete and chiseling the corner where it was welded. They actually sheared the steel pins off the ends,” Gardner said. “I don’t know how they did that. I don’t know if they had a hydraulic jack. They both had backpacks, so they brought tools in, but they also stole our chisels and hammers.”

The thieves came onto the property by coming down the hill behind Dairy Queen from Marin Avenue, Gardner said.

“When they left, they had to go back that direction. None of our outside cameras picked them up,” he said.

“I wish the police department would have notified us and other businesses this was going on. I’m told they went through the ceiling in all these different businesses. I’m a little frustrated business people were notified by somebody so we all could have been on the lookout. It’s a very good possibility we could have caught them.”

Lee Hash, who helps operate Rivergate Bowl, said the thieves broke into his business during the early morning hours of Thursday, Dec. 4. However, they only took a drill, he said.

“They popped through the ceiling and came straight in,” Hash said. “But the part of the building they dropped into didn’t have anything in it.”