Donations Bin Arsonist On The Loose In West County

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WEST COUNTY, MO (KTVI) - Several times within the past six months, police say someone’s been setting fire to clothing drop boxes at elementary schools, sabotaging a charity that helps children. Whoever is responsible is still on the loose.

Four times a year, the principal of Sorrento Springs Elementary looks forward to the check she gets from Charity Clothing Pickup: the group that manages the big, yellow drop box in the school parking lot.

Principal Jennifer Martin explains, “The funds that come to us from this donation box come directly back to our student activity funds.”

Among those activities are community service projects that teach kids to give back.  But late one night in November, someone tried to take that away by burning the box to the ground. It was the first in a string of several similar fires.  Martin laments, “When something like this happens, not only does it impact the staff and the students, but the entire community. So it’s very disappointing.”

One week later, and then again in February, the same thing happened to Oak Brook Elementary’s drop box.  Charity Clothing Pickup Drop Box Coordinator Liz Egler says, “We do have vandalism, graffiti; theft is also a big issue.”

But out of all 800 drop boxes in the region, there have been only three fires, all within the Parkway School District.

St. Louis County Police Spokesman Randy Vaughn says, “When you have cases that seem to be close in time, close in proximity, you’re generally dealing with the same people, but we’ve been surprised before.”

Vaughn says investigators are examining classified surveillance footage for leads.  He adds, “It’s juvenile and it’s probably performed by juveniles; however, they’re probably going to be facing real criminal prosecution once this case is closed. And that’s something they need to consider.”

Unfortunately, because Oak Brook’s box was burned down twice, the organization will no longer replace it. Still, Egler says they’ve found a way for Parkway families to donate anyway: “If you don’t want to go to a drop box and want us to come to your house, you can say, I would like this to benefit Parkway Schools.”

This program is unique to Parkway, in response to these fires, and will be launched with the school district’s Earth Day celebration on April 20th.

According to police, knowingly burning these drop boxes is a Class D felony, and whoever’s responsible could get up to five years in prison.