Props, Costume Used in Iron Grate Theft: Cops

Police said thief went to great lengths to hide his crime spree.

By Lori Preuitt
|  Friday, Sep 2, 2011  |  Updated 11:25 AM PDT
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The vest the suspect was wearing was similar to this one.

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San Leandro police used good old detective work to catch a man suspected of stealing nearly a ton of metal from its city streets.

Last week, the city's public works department reported someone was taking metal tree grates from E. 14th Street.  The grates are described as a metal pit that covers the base of trees along the sidewalk. Police say they are quite heavy and made of cast iron.

Fast forward a couple days and a San Leandro officer noticed a man removing a tree grate. The man was wearing an orange work vest and had an open can of paint nearby as if he was doing legitimate work in the area.   

The officer said the man's truck had two more grates in the back so he ran the plate and found it was stolen vehicle. 

The officer arrested the man now identified as Abundio Colmenero of Oakland. Investigators said the man also had receipts in the truck for 1,600 pounds of recycled materials.

Colmenero was arrested for possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of stolen property and grand theft.  Police says they found several receipts for over 1,600 pounds of recycled materials inside the truck.

"This was a well planned crime.  Colmenero used props and construction type uniforms to help conceal his criminal act. This was a fine example of excellent police work and observations by the Officer.  The Public Works Department works extremely hard maintaining the entire city.  It’s rewarding when you can arrest a subject like Colmenero who is stealing city property," Lt. Jeff Tudor said.

There have been other cases of sewer grates being stolen in the Bay Area. The city of Vallejo reported 20 drain covers were stolen in the first couple of weeks in August.

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