The first snowfall could still be months away, but some criminals prepared for the onset of winter by stealing snowblowers.

Thieves drove a U-Haul truck up to a Brunswick dealership that sells power equipment late Sunday, loading up the cargo box with a dozen snowblowers – each weighing hundreds of pounds and worth a total of about $30,000 – before fleeing.

The truck entered the parking lot of Chad Little Outdoor Power Equipment at 10:53 p.m. and the thieves spent about an hour loading the snowblowers, according to a Brunswick Police Department Facebook post. The U-Haul was painted with a “zebra head Idaho” design but had no other distinguishing features police said. The truck left the dealership headed outbound on Pleasant Street toward I-295.

R. Bruce Weeks, owner and operator of the Chad Little dealership, said in an interview that the stolen Honda HSS snowblowers retail for between $2,800 and $3,300.

“They busted through the gate and loaded up,” Weeks said. “This is today’s society. People want things for free.”

Weeks said a cable strung across the entrance to the business served as a gate. He said it looks like the thieves drove through or cut the cable to get onto the property.

While video surveillance caught images of the truck while it was moving, the thieves parked out of sight of the cameras, and Weeks said the video couldn’t capture an image of the license plate or of the people stealing the snowblowers, which were in boxes waiting to be unpacked and set up.

“They knew what they were doing. They must have cased the place,” said Weeks, who opened the dealership 25 years ago.

Brunswick Police Detective Sgt. Martin Rinaldi said police are evaluating evidence gathered at the scene and following up on numerous tips. He declined to discuss the nature of the evidence because it might tip off the criminals.

Rinaldi said re-selling the snowblowers could be a problem for the thieves, although they did seem to have experience. He said police don’t know how many people were involved in the theft.

“When you have 12 large items stolen like that, it’s obvious they have done commercial theft before,” Rinaldi said.

He said selling many snowblowers at once would set off “huge red flags” and attract attention to the seller. It’s possible the machines will be stored somewhere, and the thieves will wait for the publicity to die down before trying to sell them.

Rinaldi said it’s unclear whether the thieves traveled out of state, but police are working with the Maine Turnpike Authority to see if they have surveillance photos of U-Haul license plates at tollbooths.

Weeks said his business has insurance, but it’s unclear how much he would be compensated for the theft.

Anyone with information on the theft can call 721-4344 or email [email protected]

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: joelawlorph