Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - A family retrieving their vehicle after a Christmas trip to Florida found they could no longer drive it. Two of the tires were stolen while it was parked in the Airport parking garage on the grounds of the Greater Rochester International Airport.
"I thought that there was security. I feel almost violated," said Heather Evans, who owns the SUV.
She returned with her family from a 10-day trip to Florida and found both tires and rims on the passenger side of her Cadillac Escalade were missing.
"The minute we walked out in the garage and saw the truck was leaning, we knew the wheels were off," Evans said.
The theft could not have been quick - or quiet. The thieves also left behind a cinder block propped under the rear wheel area - a possible clue this was also well-planned.
"It doesn't seem plausible that someone would carry a cinder block in. I think they would have had to have driven in," Evans said.
Airport Director Andy Moore says no one can remember a situation like this one happening before. "It's an unfortunate situation and a rare occurrence," he said.
The theft was discovered and reported Christmas Day while the family was still away in Florida. Yet the thieves got away without being noticed by employees or cameras. The section of E-1 on the first level of the parking garage is not covered by video surveillance.
"It's just strange to me that this would happen and who would know that was a spot that cameras don't cover," Evans said.
According to a police report obtained by 13 WHAM News, Mapco manages the airport lots but also does not patrol them. In fact, Evans says no one even noticed when her husband returned to the garage to replace the tires so he could drive the vehicle. "We were able to go in and use loud tools and put the tires back. Nobody knew if we were putting them on or taking them off," she said.
"We do have other layers of security that allow the garage to be protected," Moore said. "The garage is secure. I just don't want to get into the level of detail."
After the Evans family was finally able to drive away, Heather says they could not leave the garage without first paying the parking fee. "They made us pay for the whole entire 10 days. We explained to them what happened and they said they're not responsible." The bill was $168.
Moore explained that the cashier was not authorized to give the refund but the county has credited the account and will allow Evans to file a claim for damages. Airport security, he says, is going through surveillance video at the entrance and exit of the garage to try to find the thieves.
"You pay to park inside because you think it will be more secure but people should know that is not always the case," said Evans.
A statement from Monroe County Sheriff Major Lou Tomassetti said the Sheriff's Office does in fact provide random patrols to the parking garages. In addition, there are security cameras that can be monitored both by Airport staff and the parking management company.
"In light of this unfortunate incident, deputies will be providing additional special attention patrols to the garage," Major Tomassetti said in a statement. "As always, the public is encouraged to call 911 if they see anything suspicious."