‘So much sentimental value’: Thieves target woman’s items from late mother in post-storm heist

Northeast Harris County storage units without power targeted by thieves

HOUSTON – Criminals across Harris County are taking advantage of security lapses after last week’s deadly storm that left hundreds of thousands of people without power.

Thieves targeted the most prized possessions of a lifelong Houstonian, whose mother died four years ago, at her powerless storage unit after she went days without power at home.

“It’s sad to take advantage of people at such a vulnerable time. A lot of us were without power and then to do that that on top of everything else ... tragic,” Yesenia Garcia told KPRC 2′s Bryce Newberry.

Garcia visits her storage units almost every day because of an online business she has with her husband, she said, and for days, the facility didn’t have power.

When power came back on Monday night, she visited the Premium Storage on Sierra Ranch Drive and found two of her units rifled through.

“They just grabbed boxes and tossed them. Stuff everywhere. We spent hours just cleaning it up,” she said.

As they cleaned, she realized two priceless items were missing: The accordions her mother gave her as a young girl.

“One of them was my very first accordion that I ever had. My mom bought it for me years ago when I told her, ‘Hey, I want to learn how to play accordion,’ and so that holds a lot of sentimental value to me. Then after I played that one to death, she bought me a much higher value one,” Garcia said.

She has played since age 13 and taught others to play, too.

“They just hold so much sentimental value to me,” she said. “I don’t care about the money. It’s just the significance of them.”

Garcia estimates another 40 units got hit at the facility and shared photos of cut locks scattering the hallways.

The facility’s surveillance cameras weren’t working, she said, and neither were the cameras at a nearby gas station.

“Very difficult. Just so many theories about what happened and not a single concrete one,” she said.

She reported the missing accordions to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, which took a report for theft.

In an email to tenants, Premium Storage acknowledged the loss of power and wrote in part: “Someone utilized this devastating time to break into our facility. We are still investigating how this occurred.”

KPRC 2 reached out to the company late Thursday but has not yet heard back.

“The bad guys who would like to take advantage of this: Don’t even think about it. We’re watching you,” Houston Mayor John Whitmire said at a Sunday news conference.

On Wednesday, Houston Police announced the arrests of 15 people who were caught breaking into businesses, like pawn shops and dollar stores, that didn’t have power after the storm.

One business told KPRC 2 a next-door business had hired security and saw the suspects in the act so they called police who responded and arrested them.

They are now facing charges like burglary, theft, and criminal mischief.

Harris County court records show many of them have a long list of convictions and some are already out on bond.

Joel Huffman, who has been convicted 16 times with offenses dating back to 1982, had his storm-related charges dismissed after a judge found no probable cause, records show.

About the Author

Bryce Newberry joined KPRC 2 in July 2022. He loves the thrill of breaking news and digging deep on a story that gets people talking.

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