The Crime: Attempted burglary

The Victim: Bill Vernon

Location: 6342 Palo Pinto

Date: Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 17-18

Time: Overnight

As a building inspector responsible for driving between construction sites and checking on things, nothing upsets Vernon more than showing up to find materials missing, or things damaged. The weekend of Nov. 17, therefore, was something of a double-whammy for the 62-year-old retired tax accountant. On Saturday morning, Vernon arrived at one of his sites on Velasco to discover $500 worth of plywood had vanished. Then that night, the criminal community of Dallas did Vernon one better, completely flooding a nearly-complete house on Palo Pinto and leaving it for him to find the next morning. “The house was almost finished, so we’d covered the copper pipes with a layer of sheetrock, because thieves really like to steal copper pipes, and we’d turned the water on,” says Vernon. ” But the ends of the pipes were still exposed, where we were going to instal the tub and toilet. These geniuses, they broke the ends off and sort of wiggled them out of the wall. They didn’t get any copper, but they ended up flooding the whole place…Water was running down to the second floor and out under the garage door.” Years of steady victimization by housing material thieves have turned Vernon somewhat philosophical on the subject, leading him to devise various theories on their behavior. The most likely time for a fully constructed house to have pipes torn from its wall, for example, is just after the For Sale sign comes down, because that’s when thieves know it’s empty and unattended. “That’s when they come in with sledgehammers and rip the pipes out of the wall.” Vernon has also deduced that there are two types of construction thieves, both of which might have visited him that weekend. “The first type knows for certain that particular materials or tools are there and they get ’em and get out,” says Vernon. ” Maybe they even work at the site. Then there’s the other kind, the junkie or homeless kind, who just come in scavenging for tools and pipes. I might’ve got hit by the the first kind the first night, the second the second night.” Lt. Michael Woodberry says that while the theft of building material like plywood is common, the flooding of the  house was likely just an unforeseen consequence. “Usually, the water is off in the unfinished houses,” says Woodberry. “So if I had to venture a guess, I’m guessing that flood was as much of a suprise for (the thieves) as anyone.” Nonetheless, Vernon wishes the burglars had possessed the forethought to know the consequences of their actions, and the decency to attempt some extortion before causing more than $2,000 of water damage. “I wish someone had walked up to us and says, ‘We’re going to flood your house tonight, unless you pay us $300.’ I would’ve paid. Or maybe I might’ve punched ’em. Who knows?”

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