Thief takes circuit breakers from school

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ORANGE (CNS) – Hundreds of elementary school students in Orange went without air conditioning on the first day of classes, courtesy of a thief who stole 15 circuit breakers from the electric panel.

Electricity wasn’t restored at West Orange Elementary School until 11:30 a.m., but classes went smoothly for the 510 students who were in school today, said Mike Pollok of the Orange Unified School District.

“It wasn’t bad,” Pollok said. “Earlier in the day we moved two of the classrooms to the lunch area, where there was a nice breeze and it was shaded, so the kids we’re having fun.”

The school at 243 S. Bush St. was hit at 12:20 a.m., said Orange police Sgt. Fred Lopez. An alarm sounded, and an Orange Unified School District security guard arrived within minutes, spotting a male who immediately ran off, he said.

Olive Elementary in the district was similarly victimized by thieves a year or so ago, costing the district about $15,000 to $20,000 to fix, Pollok said.

There’s no cost estimate for fixing the damage at West Orange, but it’s going to cost several thousands of dollars at least, Pollok said.

Maintenance workers patched the system, which means the students will have air conditioning for the rest of the week, Pollok said. On Saturday, the entire system will be completely fixed, he said.

Lopez said the suspect may have been disabling the security system to steal something else, including copper wiring. “I’ve never heard of anyone just stealing a circuit breaker,” he said.

Fullerton police have been trying to track down copper thieves who have taken a total of more than $30,000 in copper from three schools in recent weeks, the latest heist a week ago. A check of the market shows copper was selling for $3.48 per pound on Friday.

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