As Hurricane Irma raged, thieves sledgehammered way into Little River businesses

It looked as if Hurricane Irma’s powerful winds had swirled through the 14 businesses that occupy the Junction Lofts building in Miami’s Little River district. File cabinets were overturned. Pictures were ripped off walls. Papers were strewn about.

Except it wasn’t Irma’s howling winds that tore through the building Sunday night as the storm made its way through South Florida: It was thieves armed with a sledgehammer powerful enough to tear through metal doors that were supposed to keep the building safe from hurricane-force winds.

“As soon as it got dark, they came in with big sledgehammers and wiped them out,” said Joy Fowler, who works for the building’s landlord and owner, Steven Karvellas. “The tenants are mortified.”

Fowler said Miami police had already seen the damage at 7151 NE Second Ave., and that the tenants were contacting insurance adjustors. She also said the company that owned the building would now hire a security company to protect it.

There had been break-ins at The Lofts in the past, Fowler said. But nothing comparable to the damage done Sunday night. She also said it was too early for a damage estimate. Most of the companies at The Lofts are owned by young up-and-coming artists and incubators, she said.

“It wasn’t shuttered,” Fowler said. “The metal doors were supposedly hurricane strength. They just smashed them in.”

It’s not unusual for break-ins during big storms when unmanned businesses and shuttered empty homes can be easy pickings for criminals.

Real estate developer Craig Robins, who is designing huge chunks of the Design District makeover in Miami, said thieves also tried to break into several stores there on Sunday night. But they were chased away by security, he said.

“Our team was really on it and prepared,” he said.