'We were being targeted’: Law firm’s phone, internet cables cut multiple times over 8 months

Updated: Sep. 28, 2020 at 5:27 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The owners of a Richmond private law firm are calling on help from the community to identify several people who they say vandalized their property.

Over the last eight months, Tavenner & Beran, PLC has been hit several times by people intentionally cutting the phone and internet cables behind the business.

Richmond Police said it has four reports for vandalism over the last several months at the business on North 8th Street; some of those incidents were caught on camera.

The most recent case was Sept. 21. However, on Sept. 19 around 1:40 a.m., a neighboring surveillance camera caught a man disconnecting the internet and phone lines to the law firm.

“He was caught coming down Franklin, coming down the alley, walking right up to our box and yanking the wires,” said Paula Beran, co-owner of the firm.

However, Beran said not only does this video show the man rip the wires out, but he goes after the electrical communication box.

“He starts banging on that, rips it… starts kicking and pounding on it until the box falls to the ground,” she added.

The firm estimates the recent damage could cost more than the previous acts of violence in its alleyway.

“In previous instances, it was a matter of patching wire and reconnecting wires,” Baren said.

Richmond Police said the acts of vandalism first started on Jan. 13.

Beran and others at the firm thought it was a power outage due to storms rolling through the area but soon found out the cables were cut.

“We just couldn’t comprehend we were being targeted,” Beran said. “So, after that first time we were thinking ‘OK, someone has come through, thought it was funny to cut our phone lines’.”

A lock was installed on the electrical box, but then it happened again, twice, in the same week after repairs to those cables were made.

“Which then alerted us to the fact that we were being targeted because no one else on our block had any issues,” Beran said.

During the month of January, Richmond police said the cables to the law firm were cut four times (Jan. 13, 15, 18 and 21).

Shortly after those acts of vandalism, the firm installed a camera. On Feb. 1, surveillance video captured a man standing at the electrical box. Police said the man proceeded to cut all the wires to the electrical box.

As the COVID-19 pandemic entered Virginia, and all non-essential employees were asked to work from home, Beran said the vandalism died down.

“Whoever is ultimately behind it, arguably knew our comings and goings, because during the prime of the pandemic we didn’t have any of our staff coming in,” she said.

However, in May and June, the crime picked up again.

Surveillance video captured shows what Beran believes are several different people traveling through the alleyway. Some, according to Beran, stop to take photos of the firm’s electrical box and others rip out the cables.

“The two things I can conclude, something is wanted from us or desired from us, and we haven’t yet received that demand, or they’re trying to keep us from investigating something,” she added.

The firm does handle bankruptcy-related issues, but Beran is not sure whether the individuals may be connected to her business in some way.

“I preach to my children, ‘no one, no thing’ interferes with your ability to do your job, in school or on the basketball court,” Beran said. “Whatever it may be, ‘no one, no thing’ is kind of where I’m having to practice what I preach; no one, no thing is going to interfere with me doing a good job for my clients.”

Richmond police said the investigation is ongoing and anyone with additional information should contact Detective J. Land at (804) 646-3103 contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000.

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