NEW ORLEANS - Construction workers at the new VA/UMC hospital site are worried they’ve become targets for criminals.
A series of auto burglaries near the site has workers like Pat Harrell on edge.
“They're steadily breaking into our stuff over here. Taking what they want,” said Harrell, a Precon Construction worker.
Harrell is one of several workers whose vehicle was broken into last month while he was on the job.
“They took all my change, my phone. One guy, they ripped his window out,” said Harrell.
Burglars also broke into Terry Wright's truck, which was parked in a dirt lot on Tulane Avenue at S. Galvez Street. Wright believes criminals are pulling on door handles, breaking locks, or smashing windows while workers are on the job.
“Got to watch your vehicle, because it don't take but a second,” said Wright, a Beverly Construction employee.
“You don't know when your car is going to be next, because it's like everybody's car is just a target,” said Albert Sublet, a Horus Construction employee.
Crime maps show nine daytime auto burglaries were reported to police within two blocks of the hospital site since last month, including four on North Prieur Street between Canal and Iberville streets on July 15.
But many more auto burglaries may go unreported. Neither Wright nor Harrell told police what happened to them. And an employee's vehicle was burglarized just last week on Tulane Avenue, according to the general contractor for the VA Hospital site, Clark McCarthy. That incident was also apparently unreported.
“There's nothing you can do,” said Harrell. “I mean, you have to work.”
Workers Eyewitness News spoke with say their companies don't provide parking, and with hundreds of construction personnel on site each day, they're forced to park further and further away.
Police say vehicle burglaries in the first district are up 29 percent over this time last year.
If you have any information that could help police, call Crimestoppers at 504-822-1111.