Metal thefts increasingly common

October 28, 2008 4:55:42 PM PDT
Police arrested a Daly City woman Monday for allegedly stealing $1,300 worth of copper and bronze fixtures from a cemetery in Colma, a problem police say has become rampant in the city over the last year.

Officers headed to the Italian Cemetery at 540 F St. around 9:30 a.m. after receiving reports of a woman stealing metal fixtures, Colma police Sgt. Peter Renois said.

Daly City resident Kimberly Ann Baker, 43, already on probation for theft, was allegedly trying to leave the cemetery when officers approached her, Renois said.

A stash of copper and bronze fixtures estimated to be valued around $1,300 was found nearby, and Baker was arrested on suspicion of grand theft and possession of stolen property.

She was booked into San Mateo County Jail, and bail was set at $70,000.

Renois said problems at the cemeteries have shifted in the last two years.

"We used to have a lot of vandalism, then it started getting into the metal thefts," he said. "It has been a problem within the last two years, but in the last year we have had quite a few of them."

Thieves generally steal fixtures and plaques made of brass, bronze and copper from gravesites and recycle them for cash, Renois said.

Police have held task force meetings and contacted cemeteries in an attempt to reduce the metal thefts, which Renois said happen throughout the Bay Area.

Renois said law enforcement officials are hoping recently signed legislation will also cut down on metal thefts.

Assembly Bills 844, 1859 and 1778, and Senate Bills 691 and 447 were signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Sept. 30.

The package of bills includes protections such as requiring that recyclers and scrap metal dealers who accept high-end metals check identifications, take thumbprints, report metals being scrapped and offer payment by check instead of cash. They take effect Jan. 1.

"We must put a stop to these growing crimes, and this package of bills will provide law enforcement with the tools they need to put these thieves behind bars," Schwarzenegger said in a prepared statement when the bills were signed.

Renois is hoping the new laws will help curb the problem.

"The reason it's so rampant is that people know some recyclers will accept anything, even if they presume it stolen," he said.


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