Thieves hit soup NJ kitchen 8 times

Douglas Jewell looks where a metal handicap access ramp was stolen from the Free Meal Center in Middle Township, New Jersey.

April 29, 2011 4:05:59 PM PDT
In Cape May County, New Jersey, police are trying to figure out who's been stealing from an agency that's just trying to gear up to help people.

It's sort of a "reverse Robin Hood" crime wave; people are stealing from the poor.

Douglas Jewell is the head of the Board of Trustees for the Free Meal Center. It's a nonprofit soup kitchen along Route 9 in Middle Township set to open this summer. It has just been robbed for the 8th time.

"You would think if anyone would be immune to having people pilfering our metal it would be a free soup kitchen," Jewell told Action News.

This past Sunday or Monday night, thieves dismantled and carted away an 800 pound aluminum access ramp for wheelchairs that was stored on the side of the building. It was wrapped in heavy chains to discourage thieves. They took it anyway and left behind just a few nuts and bolts.

On previous occasions, thieves have taken a 1,500 pound refrigerator, a stove hood, a hot water heater and other metal.

"We are figuring we've lost about 2 1/2 tons of metal in those eight robberies," Jewell estimates the organization has lost about 2 1/2 tons of metal in the 8 robberies.

Local scrap dealer Charlie Raff says the soup kitchen thieves have steered clear of his yard.

"Get on the scale, you're photographed. Your load's photographed. Your truck, license plate everything's photographed," Raff said when he detailed the security measures at the site. "What they do is they take it up the road, Philadelphia, Camden area, where there's a lot of junkyards."

Douglas Jewel doesn't expect to recover the handicap ramp or any of the other stolen metal, but he says he won't let it ruin all the positive things that are happening as the free meal center prepares to open.