Thieves cause more than $650,000 in damage to former Silver City building, owner says
The owner of the former Silver City building on Walker Road says he has lost more than $650,000 in property damage caused by thieves who vandalized the building while scavenging for copper and other metal to sell.
Joseph Mikhail of Mikhail Holdings said the property had been attacked “almost weekly or daily continuously” for nearly a year.
“Insurance doesn’t cover it,” he said.
Mikhail emailed police in February asking for help again, saying: “In all my years of doing business in Windsor I have never seen such utter lawlessness and vandalism .”
It started when vandals dismantled the power grid that served the building and parking lot, cutting off all power to the site, he said.
“Someone without the knowledge could have easily killed themselves by touching it,” he told CBC. “So there’s some knowledge involved.”
Next, inside the building, people tore down drywall to strip wires and copper.
Recently, he said, they climbed onto the roof and destroyed $100,000 worth of heating and cooling equipment.
“We welded doors shut, we bolted them down with padlocks and heavy bolts, we sealed compactors – videos, security, we did almost everything that was possible,” Mikhail told police in an email.
“But they come with hard hats, tools, and ladders…professionals…you’d think…but what pro would demolish a $650,000+ building to take about $2,000 in metal?”
Cineplex announced in January 2022 that it was closing its Walker Road location.
At the time, Mikhail told CBC he saw few options other than demolishing the building.
Now, he said, he has begun renovating the building and has applied to the Ontario Department of Health to convert part of it into a private MRI clinic.
Police have visited the building “dozens of times” with canine units, Mikhail said.
But he added: “You can’t have one or two people guarding this building because it’s a big facility. It’s a block, right? So we have cameras. We have security. We have police … but these people – they want to get it In.”
A security adviser from Electricity Canada, which represents the electricity sector, says the laws on stealing nonferrous metals are not very strict.
“On the one hand, if someone steals 10 pounds of copper, you might say, ‘Well [that’s] $30 or $40 [worth of] Theft… It doesn’t reflect the replacement cost,” Ross Johnson said.
When thieves steal wires, workers must go to a site, assess its security, replace ground wires, search the entire site to ensure other ground wires are intact and the facility is secure, and repair damaged fences.
Electricity Canada is asking the province to enact regulations preventing metal recyclers from buying metal from sellers for cash.
“There has to be an audit trail,” Johnson said.
“We’ve worked with the Alberta government for several years and now we have a law there that says someone who goes in and brings in copper has to show identification like a photo ID and … the information is recorded by the recycler and it is paid by check.” paid.”
But the president of the Canadian Association of Recycling Industries opposed Johnson’s proposal, saying scrap metal traders already keep records of their transactions for tax purposes.
“Requiring additional records is redundant and unnecessary and does not assist in identifying stolen material,” said Tracey Shaw.
“Furthermore, there is no evidence that this ultimately reduces the incidence of metal theft.”
Statistics from the Windsor Police Service’s online dashboard show the number of breaks and entries into the city increased by 15 per cent from 1,247 in 2021 to 1,437 in 2022.
They’ve picked up again slightly in the first two months of 2023 – a total of 207 entries and exits compared to 197 in the same period in 2022.
Mikhail owns a number of properties in the city and all of them are being targeted, he said.
“The situation in the city has changed. I can’t say why,” Mikhail said.
“We thrive in Windsor. People have jobs. There is employment. Our economy is strong. But we seem to have a lot more of this type of vandalism than we did when the economy was much weaker.