There’s nothing lower than the kind of thief that preys on touring musicians. We all know that the majority of bands on the road are doing so because they need to support themselves. And those touring in vans aren’t making all that much, with their gear and merch the only thing they’re depending on to survive. Yet it seems like almost every week another band is getting their van or trailer broken into and their instruments stolen. Thankfully, that’s at least been temporarily brought to a halt in Houston, where a whopping 130 people were arrested in ‘Operation Wheels and Deals,” a vehicle and trailer theft crime ring thought to have netted over $2 million in property.
The ring, first reported by Savingcountrymusic.com, started to be taken down after country act Zane Williams had his trailer stolen last year. Among the items taken were a 100 year-old fiddle. However, Williams had a GPS in his trailer, which helped lead police to it. However, Houston Police said that the charges weren’t enough to land those involved, which worked in groups of ten, in jail for longer than about 4 1/2 months. However, if it could be found that they were part of a ring, which they were able to prove, the charges would be upgraded to organized criminal activity, which would have them going to jail from 10 to 15 years.
There were over 200 charges for the 130 arrested, with 80 of the arrests coming from Houston. Said Houston Police Department captain Daryn Edwards:
“The majority of these individuals have been charged with engaging in organized criminal activity,” says Capt. Edwards. “Other charges include aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault, felony theft, and retaliation. And to date the amount of property recovered is estimated to be upwards of $2 million dollars. In the course of this past year, this collaborative effort, through cooperation and communication, flexibility and a focused work ethic has led to the dismantling of this criminal enterprise.”
While it was country music that broke and reported on this story, the crime ring could care less what genre they were stealing from. In fact, the police found an entire inventory of motorcycle apparel and accessories, a mom and pop business that had their whole inventory stolen. They found that the criminals would drive around and lookg for a vehicle with a trailer on it. They would watch to see what happened, and if anyone left the vehicle to to eat or sleep, they would steal the trailer. The article says that most items were kept out of pawn shops and sold via word of mouth or sent to Mexico where they were sold. It’s good that these scumbags are off the street, and while gear theft will undoubtedly continue, it hopefully won’t continue to happen on such a massive scale.