Thieves steal overpass aluminum rail

June 18, 2008 6:58:59 PM PDT
Metal thieves are so greedy these days, somebody even stole a guardrail on a major freeway overpass. Caltrans says it's a big, expensive problem.

It's a guard rail in need of a guard.

Over several months, the aluminum guard rail on the Highway 24 overpass at Tunnel Road has been steadily disappearing piece by piece -- faster than Caltrans can replace it.

"Right now, there's been an outbreak of people steeling steel, aluminum, copper wiring, anything used in construction is very valuable right now," said Caltrans spokesman Bob Haus.

The city of Oakland has also lost its share of aluminum railing in recent months. It's a problem this city can hardly afford.

According to its Public Works Department, nearly 25 percent of Oakland's 40 overpasses have been hit by thieves.

"Approximately a half mile, 2,600 feet," said Bruce Saunders from Oakland Public Works Department.

At a cost of $60,000.

"You could do lot of other things with $60,000," said ABC7's Laura Anthony.

"Yes we could," said Saunder.

Like copper, the high price of aluminum makes it an attractive target for thieves.

"The metal dealers have gone from paying about 20 to 30 cents a pound a couple years ago. Now they're up to about $3 a pound," said Joe Anast from Alliance Metals.

Anast owns West Oakland's Alliance Metals, where he says anything clearly stolen, like a guard rail, is rejected.

In contra Costa County in a recent 10-month period, sheriffs handled 140 metal theft cases.

"It seems to be a very lucrative business for the crooks right now. It's low risk, high gain and a guaranteed value for them to recycle," said Sgt. Paul Beard from the Contra Costa Sheriff's Department.

The city of Oakland is trying to make stealing their aluminum rails low gain by replacing them with stronger and cheaper galvanized steel.


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