Thefts Hurt the Visually Impaired

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Thieves are breaking into vending machines at rest stops along Interstate 80. The crooks are not only damaging the machines, but they're also stealing money meant to help people who are visually impaired.

North Central Sight Services owns vending machines at six rest stops along Interstate 80. The organization uses profits from the vending machines to fund programs for visually impaired people in central Pennsylvania. Over the past month, crooks have broken into some of those vending machines and stolen more than $10,000.

"Out of order" signs hang on these vending machines at a rest stop along Interstate 80 near Danville. State police said someone broke into the machines over the weekend, stealing the cash inside and causing thousands of dollars in damage.

"That's pretty ridiculous. It's crazy that someone would break them and vandalize stuff for no reason," Steve Proctor of Tunkhannock said.

Those vending machines, and about a dozen others at other rest stops along Interstate 80, are owned by North Central Sight Services. The organization in Williamsport helps the visually impaired. The organization's president says that over the past month there have been four break-ins at vending machines at several rest stops. Between the damage and the stolen money, the group is out more than $10,000.

"Obviously some of this is covered by insurance but most of it is just under the limit and we end up paying for it ourselves," Bob Garrett, President of North Central Sight Services said.

Garrett says these vending machines bring in about $200,000 a year for North Central Sight Services. That money helps visually impaired people in eight counties.

"It goes to provide transportation to people who are blind, doctor's appointments, (taking) them to the grocery store, (helping) them pay bills, what ever needs they may have," Jamie Snyder, Vice President of North Central Sight Services said.

North Central Sight Services also employs nearly 60 people who are visually impaired.

"If they didn't have this money, we would not be able to provide the services we provide for them," Snyder said.

Garrett says North Central Sight Services put custom locks on the vending machines, but thieves still broke into them.

"What they're doing is not only inconveniencing the traveling public by putting these machines out of commission, but also taking money from people who are a lot needier than they are," Garrett said.

North Central Sight Services says the recent break-ins have happened at its vending machines in Montour, Columbia and Luzerne Counties. If you have any information you are asked to contact state police.