Growing Problem - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Growing Problem

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WSVN -- I think it's safe to say if you ride thru any neighborhood in South Florida you will spot these fellows. Hundreds, thousands of lawn guys, mowing, trimming, blowing making yards look nice.

Jose Aponte, Kleen Sweep Lawn Maintenance: "The weather is, I mean we out there sometimes and it be 110 degrees and we're still cutting grass."

The lawn guys can handle the hot sun, it's the cold hearted crooks that are killing them.

Hank Bergstrom: "I've been robbed in 6 months I've been robbed three times.

Jose Aponte, Kleen Sweep Lawn Maintenance: "I got robbed twice before in a two months span."

Go talk to a yard guy and odds are you will find a fellow who has lost everything to the thieves.

Every piece of equipment except his mower was stolen while he mowed a back yard.

Jose Aponte: "Gonna take me a second I got a bunch of locks."

Not only did Jose lose all his equipment, the crooks even took his trailer.

Jose Aponte: "I had a 52 inch blowers, hedges, weed eaters, saws all kind of saws to cut trees and they took it all again. I had about seven locks on my trailer and they still took it."

Dave Shoaf's family has owned Joe Blair Lawn Supply for decades.

Dave Shoaf: "I am telling you everybody that walks in here gets hit, it's unbelievable."

Dave told us to come inside and talk to the first customer that walked in that odds are they'd had their equipment stolen. Dave was right.

And when you get $40 to $50 to mow a yard, losing $5,000 worth of equipment is devastating.

Dave says he hears the same story from three or four guys a week.

Dave Shoaf: "The problem is you're talking about hardworking people that don't have a lot. None of them have insurance. It's almost impossible to get insurance on it."

Where are the crooks selling the equipment? Experts say many of the $10,000 mowers like this are shipped to other countries or Dave says driven a few miles away.

Dave Shoaf: "I believe it goes to maybe some pawnshops, which I know some have gone to flea markets. I know its goes to flea markets and I think their sold out of pick up trucks and vans."

We walked around a flea market. The commercial lawn equipment that yard guys use was hanging everywhere. We saw a truck with equipment roll by Hank says guys come up to him all the time offering to sell him stolen equipment.

Hank Bergstrom: "Man I can get you a whole rig Dixie Chopper, blowers for $5,000. You know I can have a rig sitting her tomorrow."

Hank wont buy stolen equipment. Dave says other lawn guys desperate to find cheap equipment do.

Dave Shoaf: "They are making the market. People that buy used equipment, stolen equipment are the people that are having their stuff stolen so it's a cycle that continues."

Patrick Fraser: "Crimes happening every single day and the crooks seldom getting caught one reason it's hard to spot stolen equipment. One weed whackier looks like another and all too often the serial numbers are not recorded so its hard to prove its stolen, but the lawn guys say the biggest reason is because no one cares.

Jose Aponte: "It's not big enough for them. It's not like anybody was murdered or anybody was hurt they have other important issues that they can handle."

Hopefully no-one will get killed. Sadly not many people are getting caught but undoubtedly dozens, hundreds of these hard working guys will get wiped out.

Hank Bergstrom: "It's miserable, I mean you work hard every day try to get ahead think you are getting ahead and all of a sudden $3,000 worth of stuff is gone."

Patrick Fraser: "How important is this equipment to you?"

Jose Aponte: "I lose my business I'm homeless."

A growing problem that lawn guys say only they seem to care about.

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