Jeannette fire boxes a target of thieves |

Jeannette fire boxes a target of thieves

Evan Sanders | Trib Total Media
Would-be thieves tried to remove a fire box from a utility pole along Agnew Street in Jeannette. Police are seeking two people who stole one of the boxes and attempted to steal two others in the Jeannette area.

Jeannette authorities are looking for two people believed to have stolen a fire box and damaged two others in the city within the past several weeks.

City fire Chief Joe Matijevic said the damages could lead to problems in the event of an emergency.

“It’s a vital part of public safety,” Matijevic said.

Police reportedly are looking for a light-colored car, possibly a Hyundai or Subaru, that may be involved in the crimes, Matijevic said. The police chief could not be reached Sunday. An officer at the department directed questions to the chief.

About 100 fire boxes are sprinkled around the city on utility poles. They are monitored by Westmoreland 911 and Jeannette’s fire department, who receive notification of an emergency within two seconds of the box’s lever being pulled, Matijevic said.

They come in handy in the event of an emergency where phone service is unavailable or if someone in the area doesn’t have a phone, he said.

In the past two weeks, a box at the intersection of Locust Street and Lewis Avenue went missing. Two attempted thefts occurred.

A metal bracket attaching the box to a pole at the intersection of Locust Street and Agnew Road was pried off the utility pole, but the box was not taken.

The second attempted theft happened at the intersection of Clark Avenue and Charles Street.

The boxes, depending on their age, could be antique collectors’ items or be sold as scrap, Matijevic said. Some of the boxes have been in place since the early 1900s, he said. It could cost $2,000 to $3,000 to replace one box.

The boxes work on a circuit system, and others in the neighborhood of the missing one could be nonfunctional, leaving residents and businesses on the surrounding streets in danger in the event of an emergency, Matijevic said.

“That’s a major concern,” he said.

Investigators are looking for information from any witnesses. Matijevic asked residents or business personnel to call 911 if they hear suspicious sounds.

“It takes a lot of noise to steal a box,” he said.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or [email protected].

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