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By ERIK HESSELBERG, Special to The Courant
The Hartford Courant
12:45 AM EDT, May 31, 2012
EAST HAMPTON —
Police are investigating the theft of possibly hundreds of pounds of brass bells from the smoldering ruins of the Bevin Brothers Manufacturing Co., the landmark factory destroyed by fire Saturday night.
Police Chief Matthew Reimondo confirmed Wednesday that the department is investigating a report by factory owner Matt Bevin that "a quantity of brass bells" is missing from the 10 Bevin Road site, possibly removed from the still-hot wreckage hours after fire consumed the 130-year-old structure.
Reimondo said the missing bells are the small Salvation Army-type hand bells, which the historic company once turned out by the thousands.
"If the time frame is correct, they would have had to remove them while there were still a number of hot spots at the site," the chief said.
Fire investigators suspect a lightning strike caused the fire that destroyed the old factory – one of the last of its kind in the nation. More than 300 firefighters from 30 fire departments battled the blaze, which was reported at about 11:35 p.m. Saturday night.
Bevin Brothers, which dates to the 1830s, was once a world leader in the production of sleigh bells – one of a number of factories along the Pocotopaug River that help earn the town the title of "Belltown USA." The company said it produced the first bell used on a bicycle, the chiming bells used on Good Humor ice cream trucks and bells used by Salvation Army bell-ringers.
Reimondo said that with scrap metal prices at all-time highs, such thefts are a huge problem. "These guys are moving in and taking everything that's not nailed down," he said.
Police have stepped up patrols at the site, conducting checks every half hour, Reimondo said. Neighbors are also working with police, keeping an eye out for any suspicious activity, the chief added.
Bevin said Wednesday about 1,500 pounds of bells, ordered by the Salvation Army, were taken. The thieves cut a hole in a fence and knew exactly where to look to find them, he said.
"Thoise bells are not going to end up ringing on a corner somewhere," Bevin said, "because some knucklehead wanted to make a few bucks off someone else's misery."
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