From CBS affiliate WJHL:
For a while, Wise Little League President Kelly Foster didn't notice that two sets of bleachers were missing from the town's Veldon D. Dotson Recreation Park.
After all, the town typically borrows the bleachers, which it donated to the youth sports organizations that make use of the park, for the Wise Fall Fling each October.
However, last week Foster noticed while at the park, which is located near the Lonesome Pine Regional Airport, that one of the sets of bleachers typically found at the bark was missing 19 aluminum seats. It was then that he called the town to check on the other bleachers, and it was discovered that the property had not, in fact, been borrowed. It was stolen.
According to Wise Police Chief Tony Bates, two sets of aluminum bleachers, valued at $3,500 each, are completely gone. The 12-14 foot bleacher seats that were removed from frames that remain at the site were valued at $300 each, which means a total of $12,700 in bleachers and bleacher components were taken.
Police are pretty sure the thieves behind the missing bleachers had one thing in mind - cash. That's why Bates has been visiting local scrap metal businesses to inquire about anyone who may have brought in bleachers or their components. So far, the search has turned up nothing.
The saddest part, Bates said Monday, is that the seats would be worth just over half as much on the scrap metal market. At an estimated 20 pounds apiece, according to the highest quote he could obtain from a scrap metal business of three cents per pound for aluminum, a seat that would cost $300 to replace, meaning the total seats taken were valued at $5,700, but all of that together would fetch only $190 when sold for scrap.
Bates blamed a bad economy and the region's drug epidemic for a rise in metal theft.
"Our economy is so bad that people are resorting to anything - including taking aluminum off of bleachers that are there for our children - just to make a buck," Bates said.
Bates and Officer Aaron Lawson, who took the initial report on the incident on Nov. 30, continue to check local scrapyards for any clues as to who could've taken the property. Bates noted that it's clear the thieves used cordless power tools to dismantle the bleachers at the park, and added that it's highly unlikely the culprit worked alone, due to the size and weight of the metal pieces.
Police have stepped up their already regular patrols of Dotson Park, and encourage citizens to be vigilant in the Airport Road area. It's likely that whoever took the bleachers parked their vehicle
somewhere near the park while gathering up their loot, Bates added.
Thanks to cell phone technology, police can respond to a citizen's call about a suspicious vehicle in a flash, he pointed out.