SE Portland winemakers fed up, fight back after string of burgla - KPTV - FOX 12

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SE Portland winemakers fed up, fight back after string of burglaries

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Wine barrel burglars, caught on camera at Southeast Wine Collective. Wine barrel burglars, caught on camera at Southeast Wine Collective.
Southeast Wine Collective, off SE 35th and Division. Southeast Wine Collective, off SE 35th and Division.
The stolen property just returned to Monroe. The stolen property just returned to Monroe.
Two of the new oak barrels that had been stolen. Two of the new oak barrels that had been stolen.
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

After five burglaries in six months – including three just in the last few weeks – a group of southeast Portland winemakers are fed up and fighting back.

Burglars have been targeting empty wine barrels at Southeast Wine Collective, off SE 35th and Division.

The business was hit twice in the spring, around May, when stainless steel barrels were targeted at a rough loss of $2,500.

Those cases still haven’t been solved.

But founder Thomas Monroe thought they were isolated cases and that scrap metal was the real target.

Until his business was hit again.  And again.  And again.

“It really hurt,” Monroe told Fox 12.  “This is just my property… We have ten winemakers who work out of our space.  This is their stuff too.”

A little over a week elapsed between the three latest burglaries, with the most recent happening early Saturday morning.

This time, new oak barrels mostly from France were the target, at a cost of $6,000-$7,000.

Each time, the crooks were caught on camera breaking into the fenced back lot, backing up a white van and rolling as many barrels out as they could.

Monroe and his associates went to police, but weren’t given much hope the stolen items would be recovered.

Facing thousands of dollars in losses, frustrated and at a breaking point, they decided to do their own detective work and found a Craigslist post that led them to a re-sale store in Gresham.

“We showed up, and within two minutes I see one of our new barrels just sitting there on its head,” he added, explaining that each barrel has a unique logo or marking number that identifies it like a fingerprint.

Monroe said they again called police, but officers could only put a “police hold” on the items, ordering the store not to sell them until rightful ownership could be sorted out by detectives and the District Attorney’s office.   The process could take days or even weeks.

So Monroe decided to make a deal: bring all the stolen stuff back, and he wouldn’t charge the store trying to sell it.

And it worked.

He got a call from the re-sale store half an hour later, saying 11 oak barrels, 2 stainless steel barrels and a stainless steel tank were there waiting for him to pick them up.

“It’s so much more damaging to us than anything they can make from it, it’s not like gold brick bouillon back here,” he joked. 

As for why someone would want to steal the barrels, he’s not sure.

Other winemakers would have been weary of the markings, realizing the barrels were likely stolen.  Plus, they were specific to the wine made at Southeast Wine Collective.

“I think this was opportunists who just found something they thought they could get a couple hundred bucks for,” he said.

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