By Sarah Pope
A burglary at the Waldo Grain Co. at 78th and Wornall has shaken the sense of security that owner Jon Goodwin has felt since he began working at the store full-time in 1990. The Waldo business has been in the family for 108 years.
“In all the years I’ve been here, (we’ve had break-ins) just a couple of times,” he said. “I think they were just kids looking for quick cash—and they didn’t find any.”
This time was different. On Saturday, Sept. 16, starting sometime after 2 a.m., one or more people broke into the store after using wire cutters to gain access to the grounds behind the building. From there, they stacked hay bales to climb up to reach a window and broke it with a brick from the site.
“They stacked 17 bales of straw in perfect formation,” said Starr Rockhill, a longtime employee of Waldo Grain Co. “If you just wanted to get there you could do it in six bales.”
Once inside, the person was able to open a side door to access and collect merchandise to be taken. In a stroke of dumb luck, the person or persons stumbled onto a small collection of cash from the day’s sales, which was unusually high for the day and had been hidden in the store. It seemed that the original goal was to take high-end dog food and chicken feed until the cash was found.
“Whoever did this was very organized,” Rockhill said. “They just lucked out on the money.”
Rockhill discovered the break-in when she reported for work around 8:45 a.m. that Saturday. A friend at a neighboring business agreed that it looked like a break-in and called the police. On the scene, a pair of wire cutters likely used in the break-in were discovered. Rockhill is hopeful that DNA or fingerprint evidence from the wire cutters can be used to identify a suspect.
“We found the wire cutters that were left behind and the police have them in evidence,” she said, sharing her suspicion that a team was behind the burglary. “Whether there are fingerprints or not, this was probably a two person deal.”
Officer Alayna Gonzalez with the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department’s (KCPD) Public Information Office, couldn’t share specific details on the case because it is an active investigation, but said that no suspects have been identified at this time.
“Lab tested evidence is also extremely helpful,” she said, “but it is not uncommon for lab evidence to take some time to be analyzed simply due to the processes required to test properly and effectively.”
Video surveillance from a neighboring business was able to capture a few glimpses of the burglary in action, which helps them know what time the crime was happening and supports Rockhill’s theory that two people were involved.
Goodwin said he was never too tight on security measures in the past and sees now that he will have to ramp up his efforts.
“Mainly I’ve always felt that there’s nothing worth going to jail for stealing here,” he said. “Dog food, chicken food, cat food? We don’t have tools. It makes me realize I need more security—cameras, lights, better lighting. Maybe a security dog. That’s all you can do—unless you close.”
Goodwin hopes the break-in at his store will encourage vigilance from both the community and law enforcement.
“I hope the police watch the area a little more,” he said. “At our Homes’ Association they encourage you to call the police if you see anything funny. I would encourage other businesses to call if you see something funny. It encourages more police to come.”
John, a customer of the Waldo Grain Co. who asked not to be identified by his last name, said that people are getting fed up with property crimes in the area.
“It seems like a petty crime but then people don’t pay a consequence for doing things like this,” he said, suggesting a self-perpetuating cycle. “I know it’s partly the economic state we’re in and prices are pressed.”
Officer Gonzalez confirmed that both property and violent crimes are up — not only in the Waldo area but throughout the Kansas City Metro area.
“In regard to the frustration people are feeling regarding property crimes, I think it is safe to say the entire city is feeling the weight with the crime we have seen within our community regarding both property and violent crime,” she said. “It definitely has not isolated itself to the Waldo area. I can very confidently say that.”
To handle property crime alone, she explained, KCPD has six different property crimes sections that are located at each division station. Multiple detectives are assigned to each station.
“Despite having multiple detectives, with crime in general being high, more officers and detectives to patrol the streets and work cases would be helpful to assist with solving crime,” Gonzalez said.
Goodwin is grateful for the help he has gotten in the past from KCPD.
“They’re always very good about coming out if there were any problems,” he said. “They always come out pretty fast.”
KCPD will always continue to work diligently on each case report it receives throughout the city, Gonzalez said. The public can help, too.
“As is the case with most crimes across the nation, information that is given from those who have seen something and notify police tends to be a huge help in solving cases,” she said.
If anyone was in or around the area at this time and saw or heard anything they are asked to contact the TIPS Hotline anonymously at 816-474-TIPS.