Community outrage over stolen wheelchair-accessible swing

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HAZLETON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Outrage, disgust and lots of questions in a Luzerne County community after a wheelchair-accessible swing is stolen from a playground.

The crime took place in Hazleton. Many people are downright angry about the crime

“Of all things to steal you’re stealing a handicapped swing. That’s the lowest of the low if you ask me,” Judy Yurcho of the Hazleton Lions Club said.

And we heard that over and over again in Hazleton after someone stole a wheelchair-accessible swing from the Altimiller Playground in the city’s northside.

Eyewitness News reported on its dedication in September of 2017. The Hazleton Lions Club purchased two swings. Each cost around $2,500. One for the Altimiller Playground and another for Arthur Street. Yurcho’s sister often used it.

“I mean there’s just no two ways about it. My reaction is this is despicable and whoever did it they got to live with it,” Yurcho said.

Eyewitness News went to Arthur Street Playground to check out the swing that is identical to the one that was stolen.

Investigators say stealing the wheelchair-accessible swing is no easy task. It weighs several hundred pounds at least, plus it’s connected to the top of the base so getting it out of this location, possibly into a truck or through the fence is no easy task.

“I was shocked about it. We’re going to replace it. As Judy said there are going to be donations accepted toward it,” Hazleton Lions Club president Jamie Depalma said.

The Hazleton Standard Speaker newspaper is leading that fundraising effort.

“This week we’ll be running ads telling people how to be able to make any kind of contribution they want. If they want to make it through the United Way it will be tax deductible,” Standard Speaker operations manager John Patton said.

City officials say the thief or thieves may be in for a big surprise. The crime may have captured on a playground security camera.

“It’s heartbreaking to see something that is for our handicapped children, they enjoy it, being taken right in broad daylight. They are on camera so whoever took it they have to live with it. It’s very disheartening,” Hazleton city councilman Tony Columbo said.

For more information on how to donate to help restore the swing, visit the United Way of Hazleton’s website, email wearehazleton20@gmail.com or hazletonlionslub@gmail.com.

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