The Texas Capital claims to be the "live music capital of the world" but another Texas city might be able to lay claim to the "stolen music gear capital of the world."
Kyle "Trigger" Coroneos, editor of the website Saving Country Music, says over the past few years he'd heard a lot of stories from artists and bands saying their gear was stolen, seeming like an "epidemic" of thefts.
"It became so rampant, it was like, What's going on here?" he says. "There must be some underlying issue to it."
Houston Police reported 130 people were arrested in a sting on an organized theft ring. The impetus, Coroneos says, was when the gear of Texan musician Zane Williams was stolen. Before the theft, Williams had a GPS device installed on his van, so investigators could track the vehicle.
"When police got there, they found even more merchandise... motorcycle accessories, high-end stuff," he says.
The gear, though, didn't end up in pawn shops, Coroneos says. Shops like that have systems to track serial numbers and catalog identifying information for merchandise they receive and most musicians know the serial numbers of their instruments.
"Most pawn shops avoid stuff that they believe is stolen," he says. "Houston Police said that most of this stuff got sold via word of mouth. Also, some of the stuff got brought down to Mexico, to be liquidated. But a lot of the stuff they were able to find."
They recovered about $2 million in gear and merchandised that seems to be stolen. "That seems to be the one chink in their plan," Coroneos says, "they really didn't know what to do with this stuff. It's really hard to liquidate these large-ticket items these days."
The group that targeted musicians did so based on finding what most people would recognize as a tour van set-up: a big passenger van towing a trailer loaded with gear.
"It didn't matter where it was or when it was – it could be in the day," he says. "They would steal the van, steal the trailer, dump the trailer and van and take all the contents."
Coroneos says it's not as if the people involved in the theft ring hadn't been caught before – some had been arrested and spent time in jail for property crime, but the sentences often were only a few months.
"Then they'd be out perpetrating the same crimes," he says. "Now what they've done is by linking these individuals all around the city, they've upped the charges to engaging in organized crime. What their hope is that they can prosecute these people and get them on those organized crime charges and put them away for longer periods... to end this systemic issue."
Post by Hannah McBride.