JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – A husband and wife moving to Jacksonville search for their belongings, after someone stole their U-Haul from a local hotel.
The couple, who are moving from Texas, ask for help locating precious keepsakes and priceless valuables inside the truck. They said the thieves also stole around $12,000 worth of furniture.
“Everything that’s supposed to be here is somewhere else,” Randall Honea said as he stood in his empty house, where the furniture was supposed to go.
This week, he drove from Dallas ahead of his wife with a rented 20-foot U-Haul truck. The house they bought isn’t ready yet, so he booked a room at the Hampton Inn & Suites near Jacksonville International Airport.
He woke up Thursday morning to find the U-Haul was missing.
“My first reaction was that someone at the hotel had towed the vehicle away,” Honea told News4JAX. “So I went to the counter, reception and asked why did you tow my car? And the maintenance person standing next to me said, “Oh, it happened again.”
While Honea believes they took around $12,000 worth of possessions, some were worth much more to her family. Photos of his now 20-year-old daughter, his mother who died a few years ago, trophies from his wife’s son, high school diplomas, even the ashes of the family pets.
He’s grateful he disconnected the car he was towing, otherwise it might have gone too. He’s working to see if his insurance policy will pay for some of the valuables taken.
“More or less, it was more sentimental than anything, things you can’t replace,” he added.
As Jacksonville police investigate the crime, News4JAX has learned that U-Haul thefts are a problem nationwide. News stories from coast to coast show examples of families who lost almost everything when their trucks were stolen.
A Jacksonville police officer said he was unaware of any significant trends in the area, but was checking with detectives.
A U-Haul spokesperson responded to questions from News4JAX about the incident. He said society takes these crimes seriously. It has a strong investigative unit that works with law enforcement. It works with customers who are victimized to get their property back – and although we asked it didn’t tell us if it had tracking devices or other methods of finding the stolen equipment
“We sympathize with any customer who is the victim of theft,” U-Haul media and public relations manager Jeff Lockridge wrote in an email. “When our customers are victimized by criminals, U-Haul is also a victim and shares their frustration.”
“For security and privacy reasons, we do not share information related to our equipment tracking features,” he added. “The reason is simple: U-Haul has no desire to educate and encourage those intending to commit criminal acts and to educate them about the methods and devices used to track equipment and assist law enforcement to capture them. U-Haul has helped many customers recover stolen property and regularly works with law enforcement and prosecutors when our equipment falls victim to criminals.
Honea remains hopeful that someone will find her family’s stolen belongings – directly asking the thieves to leave behind what matters most to her loved ones.
“If they’re looking, leave what you don’t want and I’ll come get it,” he told the thieves.
At the same time, he urges others not to make the same mistakes he did. Park in a well-lit area, near the cameras, and take out the most valuable items.
Lockridge of U-Haul offered these tips for minimizing the risk of becoming a victim of crime while moving.
Always park in well-lit areas and within view of security cameras.
Do not leave keys in the truck where others can access them.
Lock the truck cab doors and place secure locks on the rear cargo doors of your truck and/or trailer. (U-Haul sells these padlocks in all of its stores.)
Place secure locks on the chains connecting your personal vehicle or moving truck to your trailer so the chains cannot be easily disconnected. (U-Haul sells these padlocks in all of its stores.)
Back up your moving truck or trailer to a garage, wall or other sturdy barrier so that goods cannot be unloaded without the equipment being moved.
Avoid leaving your moving truck or trailer parked or unattended in areas of town where crime is prevalent.
Avoid loading your belongings into your truck or trailer and leaving it parked and unattended at all times, especially at night, if it can be helped.
Do not lend the equipment to anyone who is not an authorized driver on the contract or give the keys to someone you do not know.
Carefully follow U-Haul’s instructions for picking up and returning equipment.
News4JAX drove to the Hampton Inn & Suites airport and asked to speak to the general manager. The supervisor was not available at that time. The parking lot had signs warning guests to park at their own risk.
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