Brief: New Haven Variety Store merchandise stolen during post-fire demolition

In the aftermath of the Dec. 12 three-alarm fire that ripped through a city block southeast of the Green, the New Haven Variety Store, located at 91 Church St., was robbed of almost all of its goods, the New Haven Register reported Wednesday.

Store owner Umedbha Patel told the Register that between $30,000 and $40,000 worth of merchandise was taken from the basement during the robbery, which probably occurred while the city was demolishing the back of the building, he said. Two cash registers and an ATM were also found open and empty. In addition, about $10,000 of the store’s merchandise on the first floor, including pain medications and bed sheets, was stolen, Patel told the Register.

The demolition process took multiple weeks, and New Haven Police Department officers guarded the site most of the time, the NHPD told the Register. The NHPD told the Register that the thieves probably entered though the back of the building, which was left unwatched during the demolition. For part of the razing, the two above-ground floors and the basement of the building were left exposed but with a fence around them for security, the Register reported.

Livable City Initiative Director Andrew Rizzo, who deemed the building to be in imminent danger after the fire and ordered it demolished, told the Register through a spokesman that to his knowledge, all merchandise was still there when he turned the building back over to its owner, Paul Denz, on Jan. 23.

Alex Marathas, the manager of the property, told the Register he thinks the robbery was a large-scale operation rather than a crime committed by only a few people because there were so many large boxes that he said a truck and a crew would have been necessary to pull it off.

The Board of Aldermen’s Public Safety Committee hosted a public hearing regarding the fire on Wednesday evening.

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