It is a tragedy and certainly heinous that the theft of copper wiring from AT&T equipment in Northeast Kansas City delayed firefighters’ response Saturday to an automobile crash in the area in which one person died and two others suffered burns.
The thieves hit the AT&T location just before 3 a.m. at East Ninth Street and Elmwood Avenue, The Kansas City Star reports. Shortly afterward, a car that eluded a police stop, crashed and caught fire at nearby Scarritt and North Hardesty avenues.
Police pulled one person from the vehicle, tried to extinguish the car fire and called dispatchers for help. A fire dispatcher at 3:07 a.m. sent an alert through the phone system to Station 23 at nearby Independence Avenue and Van Brunt Boulevard. But the call, because of the wiring theft, never went through.
A backup system triggered the alarm, and a firefighter at the station used his cellphone to get the information from the dispatcher. All of that delayed the arrival of fire crews.
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Those minutes are precious when it comes to preventing serious injuries and saving lives. The thieves stole all of that with the copper wire.
Theft of metals from public places has been a huge problem in Kansas City. In 2010 thieves stripped the copper from the roofs over two domes at Kessler Park, also in the Northeast area. They did thousands of dollars in damage for what amounted to a couple hundred dollars in salvage.
Metal plaques have been stolen from monuments, metal statues have been swiped and manhole covers also have been taken and sold for salvage. City officials have cracked down, passing an ordinance passed in 2012.
Recyclers no longer can buy metal without proof from the seller that he owns the material and is authorized to salvage it.
A reward of $1,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the copper wire theft. People can call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-8477 or AT&T asset protection at 1-800-807-4205.