By Justin Sondel email@example.com
Niagara Gazette — The Department of Public Works has lost a sizable amount of money through theft and vandalism this year.
The department has seen six golf carts, $7,500 worth of tools and car parts and $435 in parking ramp tolls go missing since the February, according to police reports and other documents.
That means the department has seen a total of $31,135 in losses this year, with two of the six golf carts being recovered.
Dave Kinney, director of the DPW, said his department has always had to deal with theft and vandalism. He points to wood chip piles behind the golf course and a LaSalle Waterfront Park port-a-potty that were set on fire last year.
Kinney said he’s not sure why golf carts have become an issue this year.
The vandalism, in particular, perplexes him.
“There’s no profit in it,” Kinney said. “What weak, sick mind is doing that? It accomplishes nothing.”
Police and DPW staff recovered four of the golf carts — valued at around $5,800 a piece — but two remain missing and two were destroyed by fire.
Police chased a would-be golf cart bandit into a vacant field on Porter Road where he ditched his ride and got away on foot in an Aug. 5 incident.
The other cart was recovered by DPW Staff who discovered the vehicle stuck in a nearby ditch shortly after calling police to report the theft on July 17.
Another cart was reported stolen on Aug. 2. There were no witnesses and it has yet to be located, according to the police report.
John Caso, the deputy director of DPW, said the department has since installed cameras to look over the carts and began stringing the carts together with a thick cable, moves that have paid off.
Shortly after installing the cameras, a group of people approached the carts at night with a pair of cable cutters and proceeded to cut through the wire, only to be chased away by an approaching police cruiser. That tape has since been turned over to the police who are investigating the incident.
Then, in a Sept. 26 incident, a group of people attempted to steal an E-Z-Go Work Horse, a vehicle used by golf course crews to haul materials. Police showed up and were able to catch one of the three suspects as they fled, a 16-year-old male. His name has been redacted in police reports because he is a minor.
Caso said police are working on getting the suspect to give up his friends.
“Hopefully these are the individuals that have been doing this all summer,” Caso said.
In addition, $435 in parking ramp tolls has gone missing in a string of incidents beginning in early June.
All employees working during the incidents have been questioned by Caso and a police investigation is ongoing, according to memos between the DPW the city’s legal department, Dyster’s office and controller Maria Brown.
No disciplinary action has been taken against any of the employees to date, Caso said.
“We can’t accuse people of stealing without evidence,” he said.
In a February incident someone made off with more than $7,800 in city equipment including the gas tank and gauges to a city van, a pair of chain saws and a long list of smaller tools.
Caso said the department is working to have cameras installed at both the parking ramp and the storage facilities.
“The best thing we can do right now is put cameras in place,” he said.
Brown said that all department heads need to take necessary steps to ensure that the property in their charge is not stolen.
“They have to make sure that the city’s assets are protected,” she said.
Big red number $31K Amount of losses city's DPW department has seen this year
Contact reporter Justin Sondel at 282-2311, ext. 2257