Copper pipes and freeway guard rails are hot commodities, literally. People rip them off all the time to sell as scrap metal. Now, criminal consumption has turned the corner in Vallejo.
Now, there is a Grinch stealing tree grates. Yes, tree grates.
It's happening in the downtown area on Georgia Steet and Marin Street. The streets are lined with turn-of-the-century buildings that were once charming but are now in decline.
Next to the period lamp posts, the trees have cast iron grates on the bottom. This covers a depression under the tree and are the type you might see in most older big cities. They also caught the eye of someone who saw dollar signs.
About two weeks ago, a shop owner noticed the ones in front of his store were simply gone. He called the city and a little investigative work uncovered that nearly 15 of them are gone.
At $500 each, this is a big hit for cash-strapped Vallejo. Vallejo has made deep cuts to the police department, and it is hard pressed to find money for extras.
As a quick fix for the missing grates, the city has put crushed granite into the depression under the tree so no one trips or twists their ankle.
We spoke with one man who works in the area who was appalled. He said, "Sure times are hard, but Vallejo has no money and you're going to take what makes the street look nice!"
He also wondered what recycler would take giant metal grates that look like they come from a municipality. Good question.
He hopes Vallejo can get new grates. The city is looking at options -- including plastic grates.