Don Bosco upping security after recent van thefts

By Joe Jarosz
Northeast News
June 18, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Missouri – For years, the Don Bosco Senior Center didn’t have any trouble with crime.

Then, in a matter of one month, two of the center’s vans were stolen. While the center’s director calls the two acts despicable, there’s been no thought of leaving the Northeast.

Anne Miller, center director, said the first van was stolen on May 26, 2014. At the time, a volunteer was loading the van with meals to be delivered to Kansas City area seniors. Close to 200 meals went undelivered that day. Luckily, Miller said, that van had the center’s name and logo printed on the side.

“It was reported by a neighbor in the Northeast that it was found in a back alley,” Miller said. “They knew we don’t park in back alleys.”

Although slightly beat up, the first vehicle is still in use. Miller was glad to find the van, however, food containers and carts that were inside the van, were gone when the van was found. What the center did after this vehicle was stolen, she added, was purchase security clubs for the remainder of the vehicles.

Then, almost two weeks later, a second van was stolen. Of the center’s eight vans, it was the only one without a security club.

Miller said the second vehicle that was stolen was a transportation van, which included a wheelchair accessible lift. This vehicle was stolen on June 1 and was not recovered until the 10th. The unfortunate thing with the second vehicle, she added, was the center’s name and logo were not printed on the side, making it harder to identify as a Don Bosco van. The van was found near Independence and Elmwood Avenues.

“When the police called us a couple days ago, they told us its been stripped, they ruined the wheelchair lift and the bus doors, threw out the seats and took the battery,” Miller said. “What the thief gained in value from the theft is, I’m sure, a mere pittance to its value for us.”

Because of news coverage, Miller said the public was made aware of the need to serve the seniors and received a few donations to help the center in its time of need.

“Including from the seniors themselves,” Miller said. “They were small donations but they wanted to make sure we could replace what was stolen.”

Miller said the thieves didn’t hurt Don Bosco, they hurt the seniors who rely on transportation and meals. Although the first vehicle is still in use, the second is considered a complete loss. With its loss, the center is short a vehicle until it can be replaced. The center’s back-up vehicle, which it is currently using until a new van can be purchased, does not have a working air conditioner.

“We need three and we’re making do with two,” Miller said, adding the center has a “rainy day” fund it will dip into to help with the purchase of a van, pairing it with insurance money and a fundraiser it will soon host to raise money for the van. She anticipates, optimistically, the center will have the new van within three weeks.

In the future, more security measures are being taken to prevent any thefts. Miller said more security cameras have been installed on the center’s property. She added she’s even looking into gating the property parking lot.

When the seniors heard about the thefts, they were disgusted and disappointed an individual would strike an agency that helps the elderly. Despite the crime, Miller said they have not lost faith in the Northeast community, an area they’ve called home since 1940. A smaller agency could pick-up and move, she said, but not the Don Bosco Senior Center. She said they are vested in the community.

“We serve the Northeast,” Miller said. “No thief could get the best of us. We’re here to stay.”

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