Grand Falls-Windsor resident Felix Murrin knows first-hand how stressful and costly building a home can be.
Murrin’s wife passed away several years ago, and as part of the healing process, he recently decided to build a new house just down the road from the one they used to share.
He expected it to be difficult – but what he didn’t expect was to have to worry each night about thieves making off with the building supplies left behind on the unfinished lot.
Several weeks ago, Murrin returned from a trip to St. John’s only to be informed by his contractor that someone had stolen $700 worth of plywood they were using to build his floor.
“I feel so frustrated, you’re living in a nice little town, you don’t think about those things happening here,” he told the Advertiser. “You feel violated, you work so hard for something and some low life takes it away from you with no regard.”
And Murrin isn’t the only one. According to Constable Rory Jeddore with the Grand Falls-Windsor RCMP, thefts from unfinished homes seem to be on the rise in the area. In the last number of weeks, Const. Jeddore said, there’s been several reports of similar thefts.
“There was one up on a (new subdivision) where there was 15-20 bundles of shingles stolen several weeks ago,” he said.
Just this Monday, over $1,600 worth of materials were stolen from another new subdivision in Grand Falls-Windsor, and Murrin claims several other homes in the same subdivision were hit by thieves the same week his lot was.
Murrin has begun sleeping in his vehicle near his new home to try and catch a glimpse of whoever might be responsible for the thefts, at least on his street. But for now, there’s not much else he can do. He’s already filed a report with the RCMP, but thinks there’s little hope of recovering his materials.
“Getting these materials back is pretty slim, building materials are such general things, the type of plywood I have is the same type everyone else has,” he said. “The best I can hope for now is preventing it from happening again.”
Murrin said he’s already in the process of installing hidden cameras near his home, and said he might try marking any materials left behind with his initials so he can prove they’re his if recovered – he suggests other residents building homes take similar precautions.
Trevor Edison is the contractor responsible for building Murrin’s house. He said new subdivisions like the one he’s currently working on are easy targets for thieves as they’re usually deserted at night, and many have unfinished, unlit roads leading out of the area.
“You feel violated, you work so hard for something and some low life takes it away from you with no regard.” - –Felix Murrin
“As a contractor, there’s not a whole lot we can do. We try our best to only order as much material as we need on hand, but sometimes we have to get the material there and that’s all you can do,” he said. Edison added on any given night there can be up to a few thousand dollars left on a new lot.
“It’s pathetic people are doing this,” Edison said. “It’s expensive enough building a home as it is without having stuff stolen.”
Const. Jeddore said the RCMP is making note of where these thefts are occurring and trying to increase their presence at night.
“These thefts are a difficult thing to put a handle on given that the building isn’t secured or even fully constructed,” said Const. Jeddore.
He added he’s noticed some homeowners renting a locked trailer for the property for contactors to store materials in overnight, which he said might deter thieves.
Const. Jeddore said despite the rash of thefts, police don’t currently have any evidence suggesting the incidents are linked.
“This sort of crime takes planning and time, you can’t exactly go off with 15 bundles of shingles quickly, it takes planning and it requires a large truck,” he said. “We understand the frustration of the home owners, and we’re currently putting all resources we have available into this.”
For now, all Murrin can do is take the proper precautions, and hope this doesn’t happen again. If the thefts continue, he’s considered talking to other owners building in the area to see if anyone is interested in starting a watch at night.
Until then, he plans to continue to spend nights in his vehicle standing guard, and hopes the cameras will catch whatever he doesn’t.
“I just can’t risk losing a thousand dollars a night,” he said. “No matter who is building a home for any reason, it’s their hard-earned money and for someone just to come take it away – it’s awful.”
Anyone with information on these crimes can contact the Grand Falls-Windsor RCMP at 489-2121, or can report information anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.