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Bleacher Bandit stumps Chicago police

Friday, March 26, 2010

A reward is being offered after thieves took metal bleachers from the stands of a West Side high school -- one piece at a time.

It is standing room only at Orr High School, 730 N. Pulaski, because all the seats have been stolen. The top portion of the bleachers is missing and replacing them could cost as much as $45,000

Ald. Ed Smith called for an investigation. He said he just recently found out about the theft, but apparently the aluminum bleachers started disappearing in January. The first sign, according to school officials, was loose screws.

"Maybe two or three days later, we saw that 12 and 13 bleachers had been taken and we called and filed a police report," said Jammie Poole, Jr., principal. Since then, Poole said he has filed two more police reports.

Officials said the bleachers might have been sold for scrap metal.

"I want the person who took these bleachers, I want to see him in jail. The second thing is-- the person who bought those bleachers from the person who took them, I want that person in jail," said Ald. Ed Smith.

When they were installed, the structure was worth about almost $200,000.

Grainy surveillance video shows a figure going back and forth across the stands. School officials said he or she strikes between 11:30 p.m. and 3 a.m. and works alone.

"I really want to shake my head in shame and confusion. I don't know how they did it. But I think it's such a shame," said Tiffany Obodozie, Orr student.

"That really just shows a bad reflection on our community because it says we can't have anything nice in our own community," said Cannon.

A $5,000 reward is being offered by a school leadership committee that helps run the academy. The school said the field and its bleachers are its pride and joy. Before becoming a turnaround school, students didn't have either. They were donated at the beginning of the year.

"When I looked out there, it was nothing but mud. Now we have a beautiful field, bleachers," said Darryl Scott, student.

"It felt good to be out there beating on the drum, rooting the team on. All the people from the community coming to support us and everything. And now you wake up and all the seats are gone," said Britney Cannon, student.

"I think it's sad. Now we have nowhere to sit, and we have games and stuff," said Jonie Halloway.

"We thought about having our own security, just sit there in surveillance to watch," said Jammie Poole, Jr., principal, Orr High School. "That's dangerous. That is not our job to do that. That's the police department's (job). They've reached out. They've been extremely helpful in the past but for this, we feel it's a priority."

The bleachers seat 800 people. The structure was donated to the school in August.

"What it has done to this community and for these kids, what it has meant, we said we would give this community something to look forward to," said Poole.

Before they had the brand new field, Orr athletes had to play all their games away. They said the field and bleachers brought people together in support.

"I'm furious. Those bleachers that they stole from us, I feel like they stole personally from me simply because when we're out there it doesn't just bring our school together, it doesn't just unify our school but unifies our school with the community," said Edward Ward, student.

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