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Philadelphia Daily News Stu Bykofsky column

By Stu Bykofsky, Philadelphia Daily News
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Dec. 02--WHEN THE LEASE expired on his Northeast Philadelphia apartment, while he searched for a new home near his job at Abington Memorial Hospital, James Kirkland put his belongings in a storage facility.

It seemed like the responsible thing to do, kind of like putting valuables in a bank safe-deposit box, but it didn't turn out well.

In August, he locked his stuff in a 5-by-15-foot unit he rented at Public Storage, Oxford Avenue near Algon in Oxford Circle, near his old home, and moved in with his sister while apartment hunting.

When he visited the unit Oct. 22, everything was secure. When he returned Oct. 26, his two large-screen TVs had vanished from the still-locked storage unit.

"I thought I was dreaming," he said.

It was more like a nightmare.

He reported the theft to Public Storage and to police. He didn't move everything out of the unit because he thought lightning wouldn't strike twice.

He was wrong. On Nov. 18, he was robbed again.

On the job, Kirkland works in environmental services. Off the job, he's a music and movies maven. In addition to the pricey TVs, thieves got more than $15,000 worth of stuff, including 1,000 movie DVDs and about 800 music CDs plus others with irreplaceable family pictures.

The locks he put on the unit were untouched. On closer examination, Kirkland, 56, discovered that although bolts were screwed through the outside of the door, no nuts secured the door on the inside, making the bolts almost worthless. He showed that to me at his unit, along with a nonworking burglar alarm.

Kirkland thinks that the entire door was removed and that he was the victim of an inside job, but he can't prove that. You might say he was screwed.

Kirkland isn't alone.

Since Sept. 1, police have received eight burglary reports at the Oxford Avenue location.

After filing police reports, Kirkland contacted Public Storage and was offered a free month's storage, worth $94. I called Public Storage chief operating officer Shawn Wiedmann, who said he wasn't too familiar with the case. He was courteous but declined to answer most of my questions, including one about the nonworking burglar alarm. He didn't seem especially concerned and said Kirkland had to sort it out with his insurance company.

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Kirkland had tried, but his insurance company refused his claim.

When I called the insurance carrier, Sedgwick, I was told they couldn't speak to me because claims are "confidential," but communications manager Lesley Gudehus said that Kirkland might not have filled out the paperwork right and that someone from the company would be in touch with him.

Someone was. Kirkland was told that his policy covered damage, but not theft, even though the policy he showed me says he paid $24 a month for $5,000 in coverage that included burglary. Again, he had done the right thing.

The policy, I will note, states that the burglary must show "forcible entry," which is not what happened to Kirkland. He had photos showing how the door could have been removed without breaking through it, but the insurance rep he spoke with didn't ask for proof.

It's rotten when a hardworking man does the right thing, locks up his belongings where they should be safe, gets robbed and then gets stiffed by the storage company and the insurance company.

It looks to me as if someone familiar with Public Storage robbed him, but Public Storage doesn't seem to care. The full weight falls on Kirkland.

He's the victim, but no one cares. Next stop: Take the bums to court?

Email: [email protected]

Phone: 215-854-5977

On Twitter: @StuBykofsky




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