Metal thieves target Thurston County stone mason



Posted on March 20, 2014 at 5:35 PM

TENINO, Wash. -- Thieves desperate for drug money have left a Tenino city project and up to 10 others at a standstill.

Last Wednesday, they struck the Tenino Sandstone Quarry, stealing up to $5,000 worth of equipment.

Keith Phillips, a long time stone cutter, discovered generators, saws, tools, even a trailer missing from his workshop.

“You’re mad, you’re upset; on another token you’re hurt,” said Phillips, who’s one of the only stone masons in the state.

The carving of four decorative sandstone posts intended to be used by street vendors will now be delayed for weeks. According to Tenino Police, the quarry burglary isn’t an isolated incident.

“We’re seeing quite a bit of this type of activity, metals, iron and burglaries to support drug habits,” said John Hutchings, Tenino Police Chief.

Police say thieves are stealing the items and then burning the material for drug money.

“It’s easy money. It’s easy access. Bad guys or burglars aren’t looking for the toughest target. They’re looking for the easiest target,” said Hutchings.

“It really angered people and got people talking and in talking we realized there was more going on than we thought,” said Debra Sporseen, a resident.

Many in the community say the rise in theft is too common for comfort.  To fight the trend, a new Crimestoppers group has formed. Residents have donated money to pay for at least 12 signs to be hung around the community.

“The good will prevail,” said Phillips.

To help Phillips, the community is organizing a dinner and auction benefit at the Tenino Eagles Lodge April 5. It runs from 6p.m.-9 p.m.

A fund is also set up at KeyBank in Phillips’ name.