Last week, Kansas City police arrested two people who were allegedly trying to steal copper piping and wiring from the basement of Blenheim Elementary School.
The School was one of several school buildings that was shut down last year in the Kansas City School District's move to "right size" the number of schools in the district. The building has been not in use for nearly a year.
For anyone who lives in the city, they are aware of these "copperheads" -- follks who routinely raid empty houses of wiring and piping -- often causeing tens of thousands of dollars in damages. One house in my neighborhood went from selling for $130,000 to selling for $25,000 in less than a year after the house was completely stripped. The house suffered a lot of water damage from the stripped pipes, and would have to undergo a very expensive rewiring job.
This scene plays out all over the city as homes are systematically dismantled.
A year ago, when the district announced its desire to "right size", I noted that the school district needed to act quickly in getting these now-abandoned school buildings into new uses -- otherwise the building would fall into disrepair, would blight neighborhoods, and provide havens for criminal activity. Meanwhile, it's now almost a full year from the closing of the schools and as far as I am aware, none of the 30 closed schools have been used for anything else (certainly the two in my neighborhood remain empty).
The longer these schools sit empty, the more likely they are to become victims of costly vandalism that will reduce the value of the buildings and cause blight in the neighborhoods. They'll also continue to drain police resources that are used in catching vandals like these two copperheads. The school district needs to move quickly to get these schools into new uses.
Meanwhile, the city needs to seek some kind of solution to the problem of stolen copper. I'm not sure if there is a way to encourage the salvage yards that pay the money for the copper to do more research into where the copper came from before people are paid for their drop-offs, or what the right solution is -- but this is a type of vandalism that is proving very costly for abandoned homes in many Kansas City neighborhoods.