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Floor Care by Day, Crime Fighting by Night

February 4, 2005
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You'd think the end-of-the-year deluge that engulfed Southern California six weeks ago would have provided editorial possibilities ad nauseam for a cleaning and restoration magazine. And you'd be right.

But there is plenty of time to tell those stories as they continue to unfold. As I write this, the demand for water-damage restoration services here makes the fall 2004 run on flu vaccine look like a walk in the park. Commercial, residential, provincial, mobile, you name it, it's wet, it's dank, and it's in need of serious attention. The amount of work needing to be performed is almost overwhelming. And writing about it? How do you decide what makes it to the page and what does not?

That's why I breathed a sigh of relief when a certain news item came across my desk. It seems that back in December a Summerville, S.C., business owner named Al Bradham was performing a casual search on eBay for some equipment for his company, Carpet Care Services, when he finds himself staring at a familiar dehumidifier. A friend and colleague of Bradham's, who lives and works in Tennessee, identifies his equipment in a unique manner, and the dehumidifier on Bradham's screen is marked in just that fashion.

Carpet Care Services jacket off, Bat cape on. Bradham picks up the phone and calls his friend, Scott Tarpley, and tells him what he found. Tarpley takes a look and sees that, yes, this is indeed one of his dehumidifiers. Investigating further, Tarpley discovers that the seller is located in Indianapolis, so he decides to call police there.

(In one of the strange coincidences that make life worth living, Tarpley had actually traded the dehumidifier for other pieces of equipment more than a year earlier, but he made the phone call before remembering the transaction.)

Good thing he forgot. It turns out that the individual selling the dehumidifier was actually stealing from his employer and putting the equipment up for sale online. Police discover five other pieces of equipment in the suspect's home that were being prepared for sale and, upon further investigation, they find that the suspect allegedly had already sold 10 pieces of the company's equipment, worth $20,000, online. The company is currently looking at ways to recover its property.

Technology has made the world a much smaller place, that much is certain. But all the microchips, processors, microwaves, satellites and Wi-Fi hotspots in the world can only provide information; it's people who determine how that information is used.

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