2 Investigators: Criminals Target Fire Hydrants

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Criminals are targeting fire hydrants in order to make a fast buck.

Underneath the caps is a brass ring fire fighters use to connect their hoses. 2 Investigator Dave Savini found criminals are stealing these rings then selling them for scrap. Recyclers then melt it down for copper.

Stripped hydrants cannot be used during a fire. That has folks who live near the  hydrants worried.

Ken Brown has three children living in his North Side home that had a stripped hydrant.

“I feel that is ridiculous to do that,” Brown says about the thieves. “Put peoples lives in jeopardy just for a little piece of copper.”

Brown points down his street and asks: “If something happens, where’s the nearest fire hydrant?”

Without the ring, firefighters have to find alternate ways to connect their hoses or find other hydrants to use. A delay can be devastating, especially on streets where all of the hydrants had rings stolen.

Earlier this summer, hydrants near a massive New Jersey fire were stripped of the brass rings. The fire grew out of control, destroying buildings and leaving 20 people homeless.

In 2008, a California home was destroyed when firefighters struggled to get water because the nearby hydrants had been stripped of the brass rings.

The CBS 2 investigators uncovered brass theft all across Chicago, street after street, even outside Mozart Elementary School.

The rings weigh five pounds and can fetch anywhere from $10 to $15 dollars each when sold for scrap.

The thefts are bad enough, but residents want to know why it takes so long to fix the hydrants. CBS 2 found one hydrant that was left disabled for six weeks. Residents living near the hydrant were angry.

Alma Lazaro says police and fire responded to that stripped hydrant. However, she and city hall insiders say it was not fixed until CBS 2 called about the problem.

“And it [the hydrant] is actually the most important one because there’s four corners there,” said Lazaro.

Nathaniel Gonzalez lives on the same 2200 block of North Tripp.

“A lot of children around here,” Gonzalez said. “Quite a few children, and without that (hydrant) in operational conditions, we may pay the consequences.”

Aside from his hydrant, CBS 2 found hydrants across the area getting repaired by the Chicago Department of Water Management. Crews were sent out after the 2 Investigators contacted city officials.

Second Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti says the city needs to crack down on thefts and speed up repairs.

“We need to have the city personnel get out there and fix these hydrants,” he said. “We had hundreds of hydrants that had been stripped of the brass ring.”

He also wants severe penalties for scrap dealers who buy them.

“If it’s found on their premises, they should lose their license immediately,” Fioretti said.

A Chicago Water Department spokesman says there have been 78 thefts of hydrant port rings, just since July 1. There have been reports of as many as 2,500 hydrants being stripped in a year.

Water and fire department officials are concerned about the thefts but say each fire engine has a special device to connect to stripped hydrants. It takes about 90 seconds to install.

Anyone who sees hydrants being tampered is urged to call 9-1-1.

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More from Dave Savini
  • Chicagoan

    Anything for a Crack Rock!

    • Kevonte


  • Roberta Waker

    Stealing these brass rings should be a FELONY because lives are being put at risk. Maybe the police should start with the people that buy these rings, which should lead them to the thieves. If there was no market for these rings; they wouldn’t get stolen. A temporary solution would be for the Fire Department to remove ALL of these rings and carry them on the fire trucks to install at any fire, which would take extra time, but it could still save lives and property. By the way, were any fingerprints or DNA left behind to identify these thieves?

  • witness

    I can`t believe CBS pay`s Savini for his stupid reports!
    Zekman is the only good investigative reporter on TV.

  • Jaquandria White

    I wonder if it’s negros or Mexicans stealing these rings. I’ll bet they aren’t messing with the hydrants in front of their baby momma’s house.

  • LC

    I understand there is a problem with people stealing the rings. But if they replace them, what is to stop them from getting taken again? They need to look at getting them made from something else. Another solution would be for the fire trucks to carry the rings with them. They could take them with them when the fire is out.

  • Patrick McDonough

    This is one of the best investigative pieces of the year. The Staff at channel deserve an award again. The Water Department needs to save up money and get this things fixed before someone pays with their life.

  • Mike

    So you’re telling me that they know this happens and the firefighters themselves don’t have extra rings? If its that easy to get off it must be that easy to get on.

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