By Kevin Collison
STRETCH is ticked after yet another break-in at his iconic East Crossroads food joint, Grinders Pizza.
“This is the 11th time Grinder’s has been broken into,” the sculptor, restauranteur and impresario said of his place that opened in 2004.
“It’s frustrating. They’ve never caught anybody.”
This time, he wasn’t alone when someone broke shortly before 5 a.m. last Friday.
And while the thief apparently tried to steal the safe at the Tap House, his biggest mischief was trashing the security system at Grinder’s, causing $6,000 in damage, and doing minor damage at the other two businesses.
Police say nothing was reported stolen.
“They broke in and after the alarm turned on, their job was to smash alarms,” STRETCH said.
“This was not normal transients. Someone had to have scoped the place. They knew exactly what to look for.”
That was the appraisal of Jennifer Tosatto too.
She’s the bar manager at Mission Taco Joint. Surveillance cameras at her place captured the thief as he wandered through the restaurant, his face obscured by a hoodie and scarf.
“He knew what he was doing,” she said. “He came in with a plan and was able to execute it quickly.”
STRETCH said the first Grinder’s alarm woke him at 4:57 a.m
“They broke into the Grinders West side and then Grinders,” he said. “I made it there by 5:15 but no police were there when I arrived. The police came at about 6:05 a.m.”
In fact, STRETCH believes the thief probably was still ransacking the other businesses after he arrived at his place.
Tosatto said when she arrived they found someone had used a cinder block to break into an alley side door.
“We watched security footage of him ripping the alarm off the wall,” she said. “He broke into the liquor room and didn’t take anything. Then he took an empty keg to break into the office door at I-Tap.
“The police thought it might be connected to other break-ins.”
Kansas City Police Detective Tim Mountz said the Tap House safe was found inside the business.
While STRETCH wasn’t happy about how slowly the police responded to the alarm, his greatest displeasure was focused on the city.
Since he opened Grinders 14 years ago, the East Crossroads has attracted many new restaurants, microbreweries and other retailers.
He estimated Grinders and its big outdoor concert venue, CrossroadsKC, attracts 300,000 people annually to the area.
“We don’t want it to turn into a Westport shooting gallery,” STRETCH said.
“One thing the city can do, instead of spending money for parking enforcement, use it for cameras and surveillance so we can catch some of these people.
“The Power & Light District has surveillance equipment, the Plaza has cameras. The Crossroads is an organically grown environment. Rather than just collect taxes, give something back.”
Mountz said there are some cameras already in the East Crossroads, but none were aimed at the businesses that were targeted last week.
“We do not discuss specific camera locations for obvious reasons,” he said in an email.
“The number of cameras has increased a great deal, but we still rely heavily on local businesses who have surveillance cameras to help us.
“In just the last month I have charge two different suspects for burglaries in the Crossroads district. One of whom was awaiting trial for his part in several burglaries in the Crossroads district last year.
“These arrests were primarily due to the video provided by the victim’s and neighboring businesses.”
Tosatto said Mission Taco, which opened eight months ago, already feels part of the tight-knit East Crossroads community.
“We’ve laid the groundwork for businesses to be more aware and work together,” she said. “This was so upsetting.
“Most of us look at this place as our second home. And you came in and broke into my home.”
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