For the second time in a year, Kerr Park has been hit by criminals and stripped of copper wire used for lighting the 14-acre North Stearns Road city park.
On Wednesday, Dec. 26, the Oakdale Parks and Recreation Department reported the theft of over 100 feet of the copper wire where lines were vandalized and valued the loss at more than $5000 for damage and materials.
Police Department Lieutenant Keri Redd said the initial investigation did not determine the time of the crime, only that it was discovered after the Christmas holiday. Police are looking into possible leads.
Kerr Park was victimized with a similar wire theft early in 2012 when thieves stole electrical wire and caused damage to park facilities in the process.
With the city strapped for funds, last May the Oakdale Lions Club, with members who are electricians and contractors, was shoulder tapped by the city for assistance with the expense of replacing the copper wiring and installing it. Club members volunteered time and $1,500 in materials to install the new copper wiring, but also made improvements that were supposed to make it more difficult for vandals and thieves to perpetrate the same crime.
The Oakdale Youth Sports Association in conjunction with Steves Chevrolet has proposed to the city that it desired to adopt Kerr Park which included a massive overhaul of the park with the addition of a new field, field turf, new lighting, a snack shack and restrooms as well as the pursuit of grant funds in the future, saving the city approximately $35,000 to $50,000 a year in maintenance.
When contacted about the theft, Joe Peterson of the Oakdale Youth Sports Association said he was unaware of the recent theft. The organization has not yet taken over any part of the park responsibility.
Copper thefts have plagued the city in recent years. In March 2011, the city reported that thieves removed approximately two-and-a-half miles of copper wire from the trail lights of the Bridle Ridge trail, leaving excessive damage in the process.
Over the past several years, copper theft has reached epidemic proportions both in California, and nationwide. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, copper theft is a $1 billion problem that’s only getting worse. Thieves steal the wire, strip the casing, and sell the copper to scrap dealers. The damage left behind and the cost of replacement far exceeds the amount paid for the scrap.
In some cases, thieves have electrocuted themselves and caused electrical, telephone failures, and street light blackouts.
The copper thefts have been difficult for short-staffed police to prevent or investigate and have been an expensive nuisance for utility companies, businesses, and cities as they go about replacing the wire and making repairs.