GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Eight is enough for a Gulfport business owner. Paul Studstill says that's how many times his Pass Road business has been targeted by criminals in the past three years. He says the last straw came Monay morning when he discovered there had been a break-in overnight.
Studstill faces a dilemma. He says his is a family-run business, but because of the crime, some relatives no longer feel safe working there. Studstill says he's looking for a new location, but he's not sure the business can survive a move.
"We came in about 6:30 a.m. and found that our office had been broken into through a window," said Studstill.
The scattered belongings and missing equipment were clear signs someone had been there.
"Our computers were gone which had all our business software," he said.
Studstill says this is the second burglary at the Carpet Mill Connection in two years. There have also been some attempted break-ins. However, Studstill says thieves don't need to get it into the building to strike. He's been plagued with vehicle burglaries.
"They've vandalized our vehicles. They've broken into our trucks with tools. They've cut the gas lines underneath our trucks to get gas when the gas prices were so high," he said.
"We have to keep our vehicles constantly locked. We can't leave them here overnight. They've stolen trailers out of the parking lot. It goes on and on."
Studstill says he's taken a $45,000 loss since locating at the corner of Pass Road and Hewes Avenue three years ago in part because he's afraid his insurance would be canceled if he reported all the thefts.
Now that his family feels threatened, he wants to move but that's another worry.
"We're very afraid of moving because the statistics show that most businesses that are established and go into another area, the chances of building back your walk-in traffic is very slow and it may not ever occur," Studstill said.
He says neighboring businesses have also had break-ins and believes drug abuse and a struggling economy may be fueling the crime.
"There's a lot of reasons but theft is theft and it's wrong. To take from another working man as far as I'm concerned is about the lowest lick you could issue."
Studstill says he does have an alarm but the burglars came in through a back area that until recently had been leased out and was not hooked up into the system.