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$20K worth of copper cable stolen from city warehouse

Exterior views City Chicago Warehouse where copper coils were stolen. Friday June 3 2011. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times.

Exterior views of a City of Chicago Warehouse, where copper coils were stolen. Friday, June 3, 2011. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times.

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Updated: September 24, 2011 12:21AM

The warehouse at 940 W. Exchange should be one of the most secure municipal buildings in Chicago.

Not only is it home base for city crews that install and maintain security systems at local government facilities, it’s outfitted with surveillance cameras and an alarm.

So how could four spools of copper-lined industrial power cable that weigh more than 1,000 pounds apiece disappear in March in a still-unsolved theft?

Turns out the building’s alarm system was on the fritz at the time, and many of the security cameras weren’t working, several sources told the Better Government Association.

What’s more, the cable (worth at least $20,000) had been left out — and wasn’t kept inside a locked storage area as it was supposed to be, the sources said.

The city’s inspector general now is investigating, and exploring the possibility that the heist was an inside job, the sources said.

Among the city employees questioned by investigators: a man who was interviewed about a separate theft of cable at O’Hare Airport years ago.

The BGA is not naming the man because he has not been charged with a crime, but he confirmed to the BGA that he was questioned in both instances. He denied involvement.

Officials with the inspector general’s office and the City of Chicago’s Department of General Services, which operates the warehouse in the old stockyards area of the South Side, wouldn’t comment.

The cable that was stolen was lined with copper and coated with rubber. It presumably was stolen for the value of the copper, which has been a popular target of thieves in recent years.

Sources familiar with the situation said a forklift and truck likely would have been needed to make off with the electrical cable.

Security has since been beefed up, sources said. But theft has been a problem there in the past, one employee told the BGA.

“You might use the copy machine and make a personal copy, who cares,” the employee said. But, referring to the cable disappearing, he added: “This is just like, ridiculous. Totally ridiculous.”

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