'Feels like a kick in the stomach': Business owners devastated by recent break-ins amid shutdown

SEATTLE -- With so much being shut down and so many of us staying at home, local law enforcement in some cities have seen an uptick in commercial burglaries. Others haven't noticed a big change, but break-ins are more devastating now than ever.

"Literally we're going to have to start from scratch," says Tia Hall, who at just 23 years old was preparing to open Sneak City, her high-end sneaker store in Fremont.

COVID-19 caused them to shut down their doors before even opening them, and on Monday, Tia was hit with business owner's nightmare.

"It definitely feels like a kick in the stomach, like work so hard to get this far, and before we can even start we get knocked down," she says.

The thief and his getaway driver, captured on surveillance video, took off with roughly $15,000 worth of inventory. The incredible damage they left to the store from literally driving into the building is a whole other story.

"They hit their car a total of four times before they were able to actually get inside. They damaged the entire structure of the building," Hall says.

It's an unimaginable blow during already very challenging times.

"We were already worried about months and months of rent without any customers being able to come in," she says.

It's a similar story for businesses being hit right now that are still able to remain open.

"My family's not even making half of what they normally would on a day-to-day basis," says Michelle Jones, who helps out at her family's restaurant San Blas in Puyallup.

The restaurant was broken into last Thursday. The extreme damage left behind by the suspect far outweighs what he was able to make off with.  It's a massive blow to the family-owned restaurant.

"They're already struggling to try to make ends meet already," Jones says.

Recent commercial break-ins have shattered other businesses you might not even think of. We heard from a property owner with a vacant doctor's office that was on the market. He says within eight days, the office was completely destroyed. The office is littered with needles, garbage and feces.

The crooks also appear to have been sophisticated, having changed the locks on the owner. It cost $7,000 in repairs.

The property owner says the suspects were caught, but only one was arrested because there was already an active warrant. The rest were not booked because of COVID-19 and an effort to keep jails at a lower capacity.

The property owner says the combination of opportunity and no consequences right now make business break-ins all too easy for thieves.

Crime Stoppers of Puget Sound says if you're the owner of a closed down business, try to keep all inventory at another location, and consider boarding up all points of entry.

Meanwhile, business owners recently hit by thieves say the community's support when they reopen will truly mean the world to them.