Consistent crimes disrupt sanctuary for recovering animals at Lakeside Nature Center

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Thieves are targeting a Kansas City wildlife sanctuary, breaking in five times since this summer and causing thousands of dollars in property damage.

Police say someone has broken into the Lakeside Nature Center in Swope Park once a month since July, with the latest burglary occurring this week and still no arrests.

“I don’t think the people who are doing this know the effect it’s causing on the animals, on the people who work here, or on the public that comes in,” said Kimberly Hess, director of the nature center. “It is very, very heartbreaking.”

Hess said during each break-in, the person or people climb onto the roof, break a window and vandalize the building. This week, they even stole a laptop and a cell phone from her office.

“We don’t have cash on the premises,” Hess said. “We don’t have money in the bank to fix all of these damaged windows, and now it’s in the thousands of dollars’ worth of damage that’s been done, and that takes away resources not only from our animals and the hospital, but from the community also.”

Police do not have any suspect descriptions yet, but have collected DNA evidence from the scene and are actively investigating leads.

“I think they think it`s fun,” Hess said of the intruders. “I mean, I could be completely wrong, but they think it`s a joke, and this is no joke. They’re hurting people. They’re hurting animals and there`s no point to it.”

Hess said each time there's a break-in, the alarm goes off, strobe lights flash and a siren sounds.

“It causes a lot of stress,” she said, “especially for our wildlife in back who are terrified anyways. They`re injured, they’re sick, and I mean, some of these animals can actually die of fright.”

The consistent crimes at the nature center are taking their toll.

“It’s just frustrating because we want to help the community,” Hess said. “We want to give back.”

She’s even willing to help the accused burglars, inviting them to the center to “see what we’re really about.”

“If they’re bored,” she said, “they can come and volunteer, and I will teach them a trade much better than breaking-and-entering.”

If you know anything about the crimes, they're asking you call Crime Stoppers at (816) 474-TIPS.