Central car wash burglar leaves empty-handed

A would-be thief armed with a backpack full of tools, including an acetylene torch and hydraulic jack, fled a car wash in Central early Sunday with nothing to show for it after spending more than three hours on the premises.

Stuart Carter, owner of the Geaux Clean Car Wash on Wax Road, said nothing was missing, but the burglar caused about $1,600 in damage to the business.

“What upsets me is the fact that he was able to get inside the office for a good 15 minutes and the alarm didn’t set off,” he said, adding the alarm company has upgraded motion sensors since the burglary.

Cameron Brown, a manager at Geaux Clean, said he and others noticed when reviewing the security footage Monday that the burglar appeared to be familiar with the building. He said they believe that might be the case because it looked like he knew how to avoid the security cameras and motion sensors.

“We’re worried that somebody either came into our office or knew somewhat of the layout and was able to tip him off,” Brown said.

Brown said security cameras first picked the intruder up at about 12:30 a.m., walking around the building and looking into the windows to see if anyone was there.

Brown said they think the man might have been hiding in the restaurant under construction next door for a few hours before walking to the car wash.

Brown said the burglar walked around for about two hours before grabbing an acetylene torch from a backpack he left hanging on a barbed-wire fence at the back of the property.

He spent about thirty minutes trying to break into one of the pay stations for the vacuum machines behind the building with the acetylene torch, before giving up and focusing his attention on getting into the building, Brown said.

Brown said another reason he thinks the burglar might be familiar with the business is he bypassed the pay station with less money before settling on the one with more money.

Security footage showed the man first tried to pick the deadbolt lock on the front door with a knife, but failed. He then used a hydraulic jack to knock a window air-conditioning unit into the building, creating a 16-inch hole that he then crawled through, Brown said.

The man walked up front and grabbed a cash register, Brown said, which he took outside and hid in a neighboring parking lot. Then, he went back into the office in an unsuccessful attempt to remove a small safe that was bolted to the floor.

The motion sensors finally caught the intruder and tripped the alarm as he was walking toward an equipment room where employees kept power tools, crowbars and other equipment, Brown said.

The burglar escaped through the same hole he had crawled through to get in, grabbed his tool bag and fled the area, Brown said.

Casey Rayborn Hicks, a spokeswoman for the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, described the burglar as a white, thin man with a military-type short haircut. He was wearing a dark gray T-shirt, khaki cargo shorts, brown tennis shoes and brown cloth gloves during the burglary.