June 22, 2012 10:45 AM
Thieves Target City Equipment
While municipal facilities are plundered in Chicago – with crooks making off with everything from truck wheels to tools and rolls of costly copper wire – bureaucrats struggle to answer: Why is security so bad?
By Patrick Rehkamp/BGA and Lourdes Duarte/WGN
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Filled with trucks, tools and supplies that help keep Chicago’s infrastructure intact, the city’s municipal yards and warehouses aren’t known as the most exciting places to visit.
But they're turning into quite a draw – for thieves.
Four city facilities have been hit in recent weeks, with crooks making off with everything from lengths of copper wiring to $300 tires pried right from idle city trucks.
The Better Government Association and WGN-TV have learned city workers are suspected in at least one of the incidents – and that one of the targeted sites had an alarm system that’s been broken for roughly nine months.
This isn't the first theft or security breach involving the city’s Department of Fleet and Facilities Management, which maintains more than $1 billion in taxpayer-owned assets, including over 400 properties, and 11,000 vehicles and pieces of equipment.
Last year, the BGA reported four giant spools of copper-lined industrial power cable were stolen from a municipal warehouse at 940 W. Exchange. The alarm system and security cameras weren’t working, and the thefts were believed to be an inside job, although nobody was caught.
Just weeks later, city workers left the garage door at the Exchange building wide open after leaving for the night. That was considered the last straw, and soon after, workers and materials were shifted to other sites and the building was re-purposed.
As for the thefts reported in recent weeks:
- City workers told police on May 11 that two large reams of copper wiring were stolen from the warehouse at North and Throop. Chicago Fleet and Facilities Commissioner David Reynolds said he asked the city’s inspector general to investigate the report. Sources at Reynolds’ agency said suspicion is falling on city workers.
- Numerous tires were stolen off municipal trucks and heavy equipment parked at two city yards near 52nd and Oakley. The pilfered tires were altogether worth about $5,000, or about $300 each. City officials said this was likely the work of local punks who squeezed through the porous fence-line.
- A maintenance facility at Ferdinand and Tripp has seen several break-ins, with vehicle batteries and welding materials stolen. The building has an alarm system but it has not been working properly since September, sources told the BGA. The most recent theft happened in early June, but thieves have been hitting the site for months.
No arrests have been made in any of the cases.
The city launched a security review in February, before the most recent rash of thefts, but has since stepped it up, according to city spokeswoman Eve Rodriguez.
She released the following statement via email: "To ensure security at City facilities, we have installed security cameras and alarm systems, hired security guards, and repaired fences and gates, to name a few. . . . In conjunction with this Citywide assessment, 2FM [fleet and facilities management] is performing assessments of all equipment staging lots across the City to determine if there are any security improvements needed, such as better fencing and gates or installing or upgrading security systems."
This story was written and reported by Patrick Rehkamp of the BGA and Lourdes Duarte of WGN-TV. They can be reached at (312) 386-9201 or email@example.com.