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January 8, 2014

Joyland copper thieves thwarted, police say

Officers following fresh footprints in the snow at Joyland caught two men stealing copper wire and generator valves at the long-closed amusement park, police said Wednesday.

Officers following fresh footprints in the snow at Joyland caught two men stealing copper wire and generator valves at the long-closed amusement park, police said Wednesday.

Knowing the park has been a frequent target for thieves and vandals in the past, Capt. Brent Allred said, two officers stopped by Joyland at 2801 S. Hillside at about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. They spotted the footprints leading to a large generator building.

When they entered the building, Allred said, they found a 26-year-old man and a 24-year-old man stripping the copper wire and removing valves from generators. The two men were booked into the Sedgwick County Jail on suspicion of burglary and theft.

Damage to the targeted wiring and equipment is estimated at $7,000, Allred said.

The amusement park, which opened in 1949 and was a Wichita landmark for decades, closed in 2006. In recent years, it has suffered from break-ins, fires and vandalism.

But Allred said he would not classify Joyland as a headache for law enforcement officials. There’s a reason law enforcement officers try to watch closed businesses and vacant buildings, he said.

“Sometimes that attracts crime,” Allred said. “We realize that.”

A fire that destroyed a two-story building at Joyland in May, causing about $100,000 in damage, is one of perhaps a handful of fires at the park over the past several years, fire officials have said.

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