'Kicking a man when down': Small business owners say thefts on the rise amid COVID-19 pandemic

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Many small business cannot stand to lose any more money during the COVID-19 pandemic, but still it's happening. Some business owners are dealing with thefts on top of coronavirus closures.

At Lucky B's bar along Glenwood South, cut wires are dangling off the wall in the patio. Someone stole a 40-inch flat screen television Tuesday night.

"He ripped it down," said Lucky B owner Mike Lombardo.

He has surveillance cameras on his property, but he hasn't been able to nail down the culprit.

"(You're) kicking a man when he's down pretty much," said Lombardo.

Local police departments are investigating several similar cases around the area.

Durham is reporting a 40 percent spike in commercial burglaries since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. The latest information shows there were 105 cases from the beginning of March until mid-April.

Twenty-four businesses in Raleigh were broken into during the time period folks were ordered to stay home.

A security company said it has been receiving calls from customers asking for check-ins.

"Customers are concerned about their equipment, their assets," said Sonitrol Integrated security Sales Director Jeff Debonzo.

He suggests boarding up your business, even with paper sheets, and blocking the view so thieves can't scout out what's inside.

"Lighting is the most inexpensive thing. Make sure your place is well light, if not secured with an alarm system," said Debonzo.

He warns cases could continue rising.

"I think the desperation will only increase from here," said Debonzo.

Lombardo is offering a $250 reward in his case and is hoping someone comes forward offering some light during this dark time.

"It's just a sad, sad day in humanity. I don't know what the heck is going on," he said.

The takeaway -- small businesses are vulnerable right now, but there are things you can do to protect your assets. You can board up windows, keep the lights on, or trim back scrubs around the building's perimeter.

Some companies, like Sonitrol, are still installing security systems at commercial spaces.
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