NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The unique architecture of old New Orleans shotgun homes is a part the city's culture, but in Central City, the face of that culture is being ripped away.
"It's profit. That's what they're looking at is profit," resident Calvin Jones said. "If you walk through the neighborhood or ride through the neighborhood if they working on a house or if it's abandoned, they're all gone."
The intricate wooden brackets - called corbels - connecting awnings to the front of homes are missing throughout the neighborhood. It's a problem that has popped up recently in mostly abandoned homes, but occupied homes as well.
The theft has been happening since Hurricane Katrina, Jones said.
"They can't take them without a ladder," Jones said. "They do it to all the houses. They got me before, too."
Theft of New Orleans cultural items is nothing new in the city. For years, people have stolen water meter covers and turned them for a quick profit.
Antiques dealer Sean Wilkerson said theft is something his industry deals with often.
"We haven't had anything come up recently as if it was a blatant theft. But if someone calls up and they say, last night someone stole my shutters or someone stole my brackets last night and they give us a description of the items, we hold the items. We don't purchase them. We hold them and wait for the police to show up and return them to the property owner," Wilkerson said. "We hold things for at least 30 days. We purchase it until we start stripping it or reconditioning it at all. give an opportunity for someone to perhaps claim them."
Wilkerson runs The Bank Antiques store. He said he mostly works with reputable contractors and takes down all of his seller's identification information.
Returning stolen property to an owner has already happened three times this year at Wilkerson's store. Wilkerson said he works closely with NOPD and is currently keeping an eye out for five metal fences that were stolen Uptown.
There are hundreds of ornate shotgun corbels in his shop, and the brackets he buys for $35 to $100 a piece can then be sold for in sets for $600 to $1,000.
"They're mostly a couple hundred bucks a piece, but a set of five would run you $1,000. That's stripped and repaired and conditioned," Wilkerson said.
Jones believes the profit is feeding the problem.
"It could be feeding a drug problem. It could be feeding pockets, too, you know?" Jones said. "If you replace them, they cost you $700, but I'm quite sure [thieves] are not getting $700 when they sell them. But that's how they make their profit."