Deputies: ‘Wood chucking thieves’ attempt to get rid of stolen lumber by throwing it out of car
Officers say these crimes are becoming all too regular.
YORK COUNTY, S.C. (WBTV) - How much wood could a wood thief chuck if a wood thief could chuck wood?
That is literally what the York County Sheriff’s office is asking after catching these thieves stealing lumber. The responding deputy went over the radio describing one of those thieves hanging off the back of the U-Haul getting away and throwing the stolen wood.
“The Black male is throwing things out of the back of the truck. He’s throwing out pieces of plywood,” said the deputy.
This all went down in the early morning hours yesterday at a construction site in Rock Hill. The site is on Shallowford Drive according to deputies. That is where deputies spotted the plywood being stolen, starting the chase.
Then, traveling down Old York Road, is when one of the suspect thieves started chucking the wood. After an hour and a half, it all came to an end on Brownstone Court in Gaston County where 63-year-old Willie Bailey was arrested.
The other suspect is still on the run.
Houses are practically flying off the shelves these days so seeing construction sites should be no surprise. Plywood and two-by-fours constantly lay around for anyone to grab.
”Once the lumber prices went up, that became like gold lying on the street,” says Construction Manager Jeff Hawkins.
Two years ago, prices for OSB plywood were about $10 and two-by-fours about $4. Today, it is pushing $20 for plywood and $8 for two-by-fours.
People hit Hawkins’ Rock Hill new builds all the time looking for an easy score.
”It’s pretty frustrating because you’ve got guys out here working every day trying to do their job and when materials are taking or even tools sometimes, it affects people’s ability to even do their job,” says Hawkins.
These new homes got hit so many times, York County Sheriff’s Office started adding them to the patrol list. On Wednesday morning, they caught two people in the act.
”We were checking a neighborhood under construction and saw a U-Haul parked in front of the house at 3 o’clock in the morning. Very unusual for that area,” says Public Information Officer Trent Faris.
Dashcam video shows that U-Haul taking off when deputies went to confront them. One man—Bailey—did not even manage to get in the truck before they took off.
”The suspect who was hanging from the back of the truck got back into the truck and started pushing out the plywood out the back of the car,” says Faris.
All this was caught on video as the deputy attempted to maneuver his car so he would not get hit. While this chase was unusual, the crime is not. In fact, Faris says the sheriff’s office believes that the rising price of lumber has made this type of crime more lucrative nationwide. In this county, they have seen it happen in Clover and Fort Mill as well.
”It’s not just a problem here. It’s a problem everywhere. Wherever there’s a house under construction there’s an attempt to steal somebody’s lumber that they’re trying to build a house with,” he explains.
Hawkins is grateful that this time, the suspects did not get away with it.
”This is the first time I’ve actually had them catch someone so it’s very satisfying,” says Hawkins.
Bailey is charged with assault and battery 1st degree for throwing wood at the officer as well as grand larceny, and criminal conspiracy. Deputies and the construction workers are hoping this arrest will deter more people from stealing wood. Hawkins told WBTV he has set up hidden cameras to give the video over to police.
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