December 30, 2011 in City

Thieves use holiday to target work site

Flag carried to Iraq among items stolen from Garco’s Ferris trailers
Kaitlin Gillespie The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photoBuy this photo

Garco Construction project engineer Rob Decker, 31, now has an empty wall after thieves broke into the Ferris High School site construction trailer and stole, among many items, the U.S. flag Decker carried with him during his tour of duty in Iraq.
(Full-size photo)

Garco Construction Inc. workers returned to Ferris High School after the Christmas holiday to find two trailers broken into and more than $20,000 in equipment and personal items stolen – including an American flag that project engineer Rob Decker carried when he served in Iraq.

Decker said Thursday that he took the flag that flew on his front porch with him when he was deployed in 2004, and “I’ve kept it with me just as a reminder. A symbol that I have, just of our country and the service that we did. It was hard to hear that it was gone.”

He said thefts like this are not uncommon, especially around the holidays, but the flag is irreplaceable.

“It’s a symbol to me of how great our country is, why I sacrifice,” he said. “I don’t think that people realize we are still fighting a war.”

A few family pictures and Decker’s Army Ranger badge were also taken. He and his wife, both West Point graduates, live in Coeur d’Alene with their two children.

Garco is the general contractor on a $60 million construction and renovation project under way at Ferris. In addition to the flag, construction workers found computers, cords, tools and surveying equipment had been taken, and materials were thrown around the trailers. It appeared that sometime during the weekend someone cut through a fence and entered the construction area.

Project engineer Dealy Etter said a police report was filed on Tuesday. His jacket was stolen, in addition to work materials.

“It’s the violation factor I think, is the worst part of it,” Etter said. “All your stuff just gone through.”

The Spokane Police Department couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.

Garco Vice President Clancy Welsh said the company is working with its insurer to replace the items and that the financial issues are easy to deal with. The theft of personal items is the most frustrating part of the break-in, he said.

“Really, that’s what irritated everyone on this,” Welsh said. “This isn’t about the monetary impact to us; it’s really about the significance of the personal items and the impact on Rob.”

While Garco has been the target of thieves before, the burglary at Ferris is out of the ordinary, he said. Typically, thieves remove tools or vandalize the property, but rarely do they break into trailers and take personal items.

There are no security cameras placed around the construction site. Welsh said Garco has not met with the school district due to the holidays, but will address additional security measures at next week’s meeting.

“It would be difficult to contain a site that large and significant,” he said.

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