Tow truck thief crashes, destroys Art Works greenhouse

September 19, 2015

Photo courtesy Rebecca Bennett.

BY REBECCA BENNETT — A thief stole a tow truck from a repair shop just outside the City of Hyattsville, according to the Hyattsville City Police Department (HCPD), and then crashed into the greenhouse of the former Marché Florist, which is the future home of the arts non-profit Art Works.

While responding to a call in the 4800 block of Rhode Island Avenue for an assault in progress at approximately 2:55 p.m., police said they saw the truck had crashed into the side of the building.  The thief fled the scene of the crash, according to HCPD, and was apprehended on the alternate Route 1 bridge.  The two incidents were related, police said.

The stolen tow truck belonged to locally-based G&A Auto Transport.  According to the son of the truck’s owner, the truck was just dropped off that morning to have its brakes worked on when it was stolen. He said it was their only truck.  He was visibly shaken by the events that transpired.

All of this unfolded while Art Works staff members were just down the road at the Hyattsville Arts Festival leading children’s crafts.  Staff and board members on the scene said the incident was shocking, unbelievable and devastating.  As Alley Cat Towing pulled away the tow truck, glass from the greenhouse was heard crashing to the ground.

“I’m very heartbroken,” Art Works Board Secretary Teresa Thiemann said.  According to Thiemann, she just walked by the building on the way to the art festival.  She was with another board member and talked about the potential use for that space on the walk.


Art Works Executive Director Barbara Johnson, who was away at a funeral, said staff and board members were sending her pictures and video phone calls to show her the damage.

“I’m in shock,” Johnson said.  “Given the reason I cannot be there, I am so grateful no one was hurt. … I am thankful we were not in there with a program or someone was not waiting to cross.”

Johnson said she has been in contact with the insurance company and is working that process, but she is trying to get a disaster recovery company to help clean up the debris sooner.


As for whether or not this affects Art Works plans to renovate the former Marché Florist building and move to Hyattsville, Johnson said the greenhouse project was separate from the main building renovation and the rest of the building can keep moving forward.

“I don’t know if it will change the timeline,” she said.

A local resident said his Verizon service was out and authorities told bystanders that the Verizon line had been hit.  Local residents report the Verizon service is back on.

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