For Immediate Release
Press Contact: Mary Kay Clunies-Ross, PIO, City Manager's Office, (510) 981-7008

BERKELEY PARKS, POLICE WARN AGAINST SPIKE IN METAL THEFT

Berkeley, California (Friday, November 14, 2008) - Metal thefts in Berkeley are reducing lighting in parks, endangering trees, and threatening the cleanliness of water in Aquatic Park and San Francisco Bay. The thefts have also cost City residents more than $200,000 this year to replace wire, grates and pipes.

The Parks and Police Departments are teaming up to ask community members for their help in identifying and reducing this crime.

In October, copper wire that supported half the lighting at the City's new Gilman sports fields were stolen. Similar theft of copper wire from the Eastshore Pedestrian Overcrossing and the Ohlone Greenway Path has also occurred this year. The cost to replace the wire at the three locations is estimated at $85,000.

In the past six months, at least $100,000 worth of steel tree grates and cages and nearly $25,000 worth of brass backflow preventers have been stolen from three locations around the city, including Aquatic Park. In August, a city employee discovered thieves stealing used and recycled City supplies from a storage area in Aquatic Park. The theft included galvanized pipe, metal tree grates and protective tree guards, irrigation backflow preventers and the protective cages used to deter theft of preventers.

"These crimes not only impact quality of life for city residents, they also come at a huge cost to taxpayers, both in staff time to repair the damage and in funding to replace the metal," said William Rogers, director of Parks, Recreation and Waterfront. 

Tree grates are streetscape elements designed to protect trees planted in paved areas. Backflow preventers are specialty valves installed above the ground to prevent contamination from backflow, the unwanted reverse flow of water or mixtures of water with other substances into the distribution pipes of a city's water supply.

The market value of metal like copper significantly increased in recent years, driving a sharp increase in incidents of theft of scrap metals in California and nationwide. Due to the trend, a package of anti-metal theft legislation was signed into state law in September.

Police and Parks departments are encouraging members of the community to report suspicious activity to the Berkeley Police Department at 981-5900 (Dispatch) or the Property Crimes detail at 981-5737. Members of the community who wish to remain anonymous may contact the Police through Bay Area Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

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