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Thieves target pool parts; suspect arrested

Copper pipe and brass fittings worth thousands of dollars have been stolen from closed swimming pools at Jones Beach and Heckscher state parks, according to parks officials.

At the Heckscher pool in East Islip, which has been closed since the end of the 2010 season, $2,200 worth of copper pipe and $790 worth of brass fittings were stolen sometime before June 30, State Park Police Chief Richard O'Donnell said.

That's when police arrested John Fitch of Islip, who had worked for the agency as a general mechanic since 2007. He was charged with third-degree burglary, second-degree criminal mischief, grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and larceny. O'Donnell said some of the stolen materials were recovered.

At the East Bathhouse pool at Jones Beach, which has been closed for two years, police received a report July 25 of the theft of about $3,000 worth of copper pipe and $1,000 in brass fittings. That case remains under investigation.

O'Donnell said surveillance of the pools has been stepped up.

Ronald Foley, regional director of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said even before the thefts, both pools needed substantial renovations before they could be used again. The state has no immediate plans to reopen either pool, he said.

"The scope of what was stolen is small in comparison to those huge dollar needs and wouldn't affect a decision to reopen them," Foley said.

Earlier this month, four Wyandanch men were charged with burglary for stealing copper wiring, bathroom fixtures and pool chairs from a Babylon Town pool in Deer Park, police said.

The value of copper has gone up about 20 percent over the last year.

With John Valenti and Matthew Chayes

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