South Lake Tahoe, Calif. – Someone’s stealing copper from Forest Service facilities on the South Shore, and the agency’s turning to the public for help in stopping the costly crimes. The thieves have targeted restrooms at Kiva Picnic Area, Fallen Leaf Campground, and Pope and Baldwin beaches, vandalizing the buildings in their attempts to access the copper pipes in the plumbing and sell them for scrap metal. Several of the restrooms had been newly constructed over the past few years.
Forest Service law enforcement officers and the El Dorado County Sherriff’s office are conducting a joint investigation of the incidents. The violations, which include damaging and removing government property, carry the standard criminal penalty of fines of up to $5,000 and six months in jail for each charge. The Forest Service can also pursue civil penalties aimed at recovering the cost of repairing the facilities, which could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Other recreation sites in the Lake Tahoe Basin have also experienced recent thefts in recent months.
“These thefts and associated vandalism may necessitate a delay in the opening of these sites to allow us to bring them back up to code,” said Forest Service recreation specialist Bob Becker. “While copper theft may seem like a victimless crime, there’s a real impact on our ability to serve the public and in terms of the cost to the federal government and concessionaires to repair the damage.” The agency will use an alternate material for the repairs to eliminate the potential for vandalism in the future.
Forest Service law enforcement personnel say they now have agency facilities under heavy surveillance. “If you have information on the thefts, you can report it anonymously by calling the Lake Tahoe Secret Witness Program at (530) 541-6800 or reporting online at http://www.edcgov.us/