Provo police say the thieves tunneled through storage unit walls, stealing items as they went.
Then the thieves took the items to an abandoned home near 400 South 500 West that’s used as a flop house, piled them in the garage and spread the word that any interested ne’er-do-wells — including drug addicts and homeless people — could come by and help themselves, police said.
"It was kind of a free-for-all," said Sgt. Brandon Post. "Anybody that had any sort of need would grab an item and go pawn it."
Tuesday, Post said, detectives had recovered at least 120 stolen items — like credit cards, checkbooks, stereo equipment, backpacks, bicycles and lots of tools — from the garage. Detectives were also beginning to sift through the state’s pawn shop records to see if they could track down any other missing items.
Also Tuesday, police announced they arrested five people on suspicion of a variety of felony crimes and were looking at possible charges against two more.
Post said the five alleged thieves have been linked to at least four storage unit break-ins at 1600 S. State St., but police believe they could be responsible for more. Earlier this year, police reported they were investigating as many as 18 break-ins at rental storage units across the city — some where thieves had also tunneled through the walls.
Post said officers also suspect some of the stolen items recovered may have come from car break-ins around the city.
Post said a detective cracked the case while he was investigating another storage unit break-in. He said the detective noticed that the thieves hadn’t finished raiding one unit, so he placed a tracking bug on an item left behind, which the thieves later came back to steal.
Police used that stolen item to help lead them to the flop house and all the stolen loot, Post said.
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