Tempe police search for suspects after a break-in at an organization that helps the developmentally disabled.

TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- Tempe police are hoping the public can help track down a thief or thieves who targeted a non-profit serving people with disabilities.

The burglary happened at The Center for Habilitation (TCH) located near Kyrene and Guadalupe roads.

Early Tuesday morning, someone broke into the property of the Tempe main campus. The thief or thieves made off with a large haul of valuables and tools; including hand tools, a Dewalt drill, impact gun, a Porter cable small compressor, a Dewalt circular saw, several electrical meters, landscaping tools, a power washer, a surrey bike, and two adult trikes.

"It's probably our supported individuals most favorite item. They're all handicap accessible bicycles. They're not the typical bike you'd go buy at Target or a bike store. They're tricked out for this community to use," said CEO Jeff Bernick. "They stole all of them. I think it's worth noting--it's not as if they were sitting out, we had them locked and the locks were cut and all that stuff." 

Video shows a 2000 Chevy long-bed truck in the area, but no clear images of the thieves can be seen.

"It appeared they came twice: once at around 11:30 in the evening and then around 1 or 2 in the morning," Bernick said. 

On Wednesday, staff also discovered that catalytic converters were stolen from at least 10 of their transport vans. 

"Our property loss looks like it's certainly well into 5 figures, probably close to 20,000 from what we can tell at this point," Bernick said. "That's a big hit for us. It takes us a lot of time and effort from a fundraising standpoint to raise $20,000. That's certainly not an insignificant number and it's probably 5-10% of what we raise philanthropically each year." 

Staffers at TCH say the loss of the surrey bike and specialty trikes will hit the hardest. The bikes had been donated and will be hard to replace. Riding them is a favorite activity of the supported individuals that participate at TCH.

Staffers tell us that this has been a very difficult time for their supported individuals, since COVID-19 has prevented them from enjoying most of the regular activities. TCH is reopening in a phased-in approach starting Thursday, with half of their supported individuals returning to the day program. The cooler weather coming would have meant participants could have spent more time riding those bikes.

"They're going to be very disappointed and this is a group of people that have difficulties with change in transitions because of their underlying conditions to begin with and so this is just another loss for them when they come back here and go out onto our backyard to get onto the bike and the bikes aren't going to be there. That's just another piece of their life that has been taken," Bernick said. 

Again, the crime happened on Tuesday, Sept. 29, between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. at the TCH campus, located at 215 Lodge Drive in Tempe. (That's in the area of Guadalupe and Kyrene roads.) If you have any information at all about the burglary, you're asked to contact Tempe police.

The mission of TCH is to support and empower people who live with developmental or physical disabilities. The organization provides a wide range of services designed to create opportunities to ensure individuals with disabilities realize their full potential.


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