Houston law enforcement authorities say both of the city’s commercial car wash facilities were hit by burglary last Wednesday night.
Police Chief Jim McNiell said heavy loss was sustained at the Big Red Car Wash on Highway 17 just east of U.S. 63, while damage and loss was minimal at the nearby Splish Splash Car Wash on South Sam Houston Blvd.
McNiell said losses at the Big Red totaled about $5,000, including damaged or stolen equipment and about $1,000 in swiped cash.
A call was received at about 10 p.m. Wednesday. At the Big Red, forced entry was reportedly gained through the office door, and keys found inside were used to open coin boxes, or “hoppers.” The automated money machine was also stolen from the drive-through wash, as were several tools and devices related to the car wash’s security system.
In both incidents, an attempt was made to cut off electricity from the facilities at the power pole. McNiell said the attempt was successful at Splish Splash and records indicate power ceased there at 10:04 p.m.
“It didn’t work at Big Red, maybe because there was something else that also needed to be turned off,” McNiell said. “But in any case, I believe we’re dealing someone who knew what they were doing.”
McNiell said evidence at Splish Splash showed attempts were made to pry open equipment harboring money, but little cash was missing.
“I think what happened is that being so close to U.S. 63, they got spooked and left before they were finished,” he said.
Interestingly, the owner of the Splish Splash business called police Friday and reported that on his way home, he came to a low water crossing over Indian Creek and observing a pickup stopped on the bridge and a man standing next to it looking into the creek. With the arrival of the second vehicle, the man reportedly jumped in his truck and sped away.
The Splish Splash owner said he stopped on the creek crossing, looked into the water and saw a car wash coin hopper.
“From the looks of it, it hadn’t been in the water more than a few minutes,” McNiell said.
Investigation determined the machine was not related to the Houston incidents, but McNiell said similar incidents took place during the past month at car washes in Licking, and authorities are looking into whether the hopper in the creek was related.
McNiell said a suspect and a vehicle of interest are being sought with regard to the Houston incidents.
“If anybody has any information regarding these two burglaries in Houston, or the incidents in Licking, please call the appropriate department,” he said. “Rest assured any information received will remain confidential and we’ll develop all leads from that information.”
The HPD’s phone number is 417-967-3348. The Licking Police Department’s number is 573-674-2278.