Danville Express

Newsfront - July 27, 2007

Officials ponder reasons for pilfered plaque

Vandalism at Alamo park might be the result of increased copper value

by Natalie O'Neill

Effects from ongoing South American copper mining strikes may have hit home last week - in the form of theft and vandalism at Livorna Park.

A heavy one-and-a-half-by-two-foot bronze sign reading "Livorna Park" was taken from its mounting plaque at the lower entrance of the park, county public works officials reported.

As the cost of copper overseas skyrockets because of labor strikes, copper theft here in the States is on the rise. The copper-theft spree prompted 20 states to pass laws this year to curb the problem.

In Alamo, public officials and community members are speculating the stolen plaque could be part of the national crime trend.

The price of the material has increased from 60 cents per pound in 2003 to about $3.70 per pound today. Construction sites and public areas with bronze statues and plaques are often targets and are one way to score a buck - or $30.

"They wanted some sort of trophy," said Steve Mick, Alamo Parks and Recreation Committee Chair.

Landscaping crews at the park noticed the missing plaque and reported it to the county public works staff, who are still looking into how much the decorative piece will cost to replace, said Hillary Heard, a county special districts planner.

"We're still not sure why they chose to steal from this location," Heard said.

Whether the damaged plaque was an attempt to make a profit or just a careless act of vandalism, the damaged plaque will likely be much higher than the "street value" of the copper itself.

In two recent incidents in California, police estimated that $10,000 worth of damage to air compressors with copper pipes afforded the suspect just $20 in profits.

Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department spokesman Jimmy Lee did not return phone calls by press time to comment on county wide copper theft.

The plaque will be replaced and the Parks and Recreation Committee has not yet determined if it will be remounted using the same materials.

"I find vandalism repugnant," Mick said.

Contact Natalie O'Neill at noneill@danvilleweekly.com or 837-8300.


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