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Tampa food truck back in business after theft thanks to community donations

HCSO: trailer thefts are a growing crime trend
Posted at 11:20 PM, May 28, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. — The owners of a Tampa pizza company are back in business thanks in part to their West Tampa community.

Mirco Falcone spent decades perfecting his wood-fired pizza recipe in his home country of Italy, while remaining focused on pursuing the American dream.

“I can work hard, work two years, three years, then save money and start with this small trailer,” said Falcone. “With this small trailer, buy another one, third one, you know, and expand my business."

But before those expansion plans took off, the coronavirus hit, crippling Pizzeataly, located on West Hillsborough Avenue.

Falcone and his wife poured nearly their entire life savings trying to stay afloat.

Then, in mid-November, someone stole their food truck.

The theft remains an active investigation with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s horrible, horrible,” said Falcone. “When you work hard for several years, no days off for years, work 12 hours a day.”

ABC Action News has learned, trailer thefts are on the rise in Hillsborough County.

The sheriff’s office says 70 trailers were reported stolen between January and April this year, a 35 percent increase from the same time in 2020.

“I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that 5 percent of our sales are to customers that have just lost a trailer to theft,” said Michael Gatewood, owner of Bigfoot Trailers in Mulberry.

Gatewood says the recent surge in stolen trailers can be linked to low supply and delays in manufacturing.

“The bigger manufacturers that are servicing the dealers around Florida are telling their dealers that they can’t get a trailer for six months or nine months from the time they order it, so there’s very little inventory out there, people can’t get what they want.”

Deputies urge all trailer owners to use a hitch lock or wheel boot to help prevent thefts.

Gatewood also recommends owners mark their trailers in a hidden area, like under the frame, so it’s easier to identify if recovered stolen.

“We actually weld a number on the frame that’s not related to the VIN and that way the thieves don’t think there’s any reason to take that off.”

Back at Pizzeataly, business has more than doubled since reopening this year.

Loyal customers and strangers alike in the West Tampa community donated thousands to help Falcone and his family buy a new food truck.

Thanks to that support, Falcone is soon expanding to three food trucks that will offer his authentic Italian pizza, pasta, and gelato.