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Police and health managers have called the theft of blue lights from ambulances waiting to respond to 999 calls ''irresponsible''.
Three ambulances were targeted at a station in Southampton early on Tuesday, causing a delay in getting the vehicles on call and ready for action and potentially risking lives, South Central Ambulance Service said.
The thieves stole lights from the front, back and sides of the vehicles, which are owned by a private firm contracted to the ambulance service, and were in a fenced compound.
A spokesman for South Central Ambulance Service said:
''At a time when the local ambulance service is facing mounting winter pressures it is hugely irresponsible for people to vandalise emergency vehicles of any type.
''Such reckless action can put lives at risk. It means that emergency response vehicles are out of commission and unable to respond to medical emergencies for a period of time.''
Hampshire Police are investigating the theft and a spokesman added:
''This type of behaviour is nothing short of reckless and has the potential to endanger lives of those needing emergency medical attention.
''We would see no good reason why anyone would want to take lights from ambulances and would urge anyone who may know those responsible or may have come across the lights to contact us immediately.''