Thieves rarely net much money, but their crimes leave car wash owners with thousands of dollars worth of damage.

Thieves rarely net much money, but their crimes leave car wash owners with thousands of dollars worth of damage.

In Longview, Texas, a burglar broke into an ice machine last month. The criminal’s take? $150.

The damage? $15,000.

The local News-Journal is reporting that local businesses who run coin-operated businesses, including car washes, are repeatedly having to replace expensive equipment worth much more than the cost of the theft. “Because the damage was $15,000, that means that it will be a felony charge against whomever did this,” police said of the ice-machine incident.

In the past six months, records show, there have been six burglaries at car washes. Two of them, on April 27 and May 4, were at a car wash in the 500 block of Pine Tree Road. Four more, on April 16, 27 and 28, and May 5, were at a facility in the 3500 block of Gilmer Road.

“Video is probably the main and best way that they can deter crime at their businesses — inside and outside,” [police spokeswoman Kristie] Brian said.

Video surveillance at the two car washes did not prevent break-ins, but it did help in the investigation. Surveillance pictures helped officers identify a suspect in the string of car wash jobs.

In one case, a suspect confessed that the small take didn’t matter; he needed anything to help feed his methamphetamine addiction. So, aside from installing video — and advertising its presence — what can car wash businesses do to deter crime? Clear your machines every night and post a big sign letting would-be burglars know.