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Burglar robs safe at L.A. homeless shelter

December 03, 2007|From a Times staff writer

A burglar stole tens of thousands of dollars Sunday from a Union Rescue Mission safe, money that homeless people had saved up from jobs they held outside the shelter, officials said. The thief then set a fire to cover his tracks.

The smoke forced the San Pedro Street mission's 800 residents to evacuate about 4 a.m., when temperatures were in the low 40s. Sprinklers doused the fire, which damaged the second-floor offices. No one was injured.

Mission Chief Executive Andy Bales said the burglar broke into one of the offices and pried open the back of the large safe, scooping out the cash. The thief wrapped a shirt around a light bulb to start the fire, Bales said.

"That's what bothers us the most, that he put the lives of all our guests at risk with the fire," he said.

One man at the mission had more than $10,000 in the safe, and several others had about $4,000 each, Bales added.

"We'll make it right for the guys, whether the insurance covers it or not," he said.

Los Angeles police spokeswoman Karen Smith said firefighters alerted detectives that the safe had been robbed. Bales said a security camera captured the thief leaving the mission and walking north on San Pedro.

Smith said she had no information on possible suspects.

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