Lawrence crime, fire, courts coverage
Have a tip?Contact Journal-World reporter Caitlin Doornbos:
There's got to be an easier way to pick up a little pocket change.
Lawrence police are looking for help from the public in finding a thief who has been cutting down and making off with downtown parking meters.
The thief has apparently used a pipe cutter, or a similar tool, to saw off parking meter posts about midway, a couple of feet from the ground. One of the stolen parking meters was later recovered in rural Douglas County, but it's unknown what happened to the rest.
Police have counted five meters stolen since April, in the 700 and 800 blocks of New Hampshire Street, the 600 block of Rhode Island Street, the 100 block of East Sixth St., and the 600 block of Vermont Street.
Other cities have seen far worse: Atlanta, in 2007, saw thieves cut down and abscond with 500 parking meters over the course of a year.
In other Lawrence cases, said Sgt. Trent McKinley, a Lawrence Police Department spokesman, the modus operandi was more sophisticated.
"In the past, someone had gotten a key and was removing the coins just the way a meter collector would," McKinley said. "This, where we have to replace the meters and set the concrete again, it's an expensive deal for us."
The destruction of parking meters that has gone on through June is far more costly than the loss of the coins, McKinley said, which probably didn't amount to much money. The cost to replace the post and purchase the meter heads is approximately $800 for the single meters and $1600 for dual-meter assemblies.
Police are asking business owners, residents and visitors to call 911 if they see someone suspicious tampering with a parking meter. City employees working on the meters or issuing parking citations should be wearing yellow uniform shirts, or be in another city uniform, and should be carrying city-issued identification. They also work regular daytime hours from Monday to Saturday.
"We don't usually like to say exactly when our people are working," McKinley said, referring to parking control workers. "But if you see someone out on a Sunday, or at 10 o'clock at night, it's probably not us."
Police are asking anyone with information about these crimes to call the Lawrence Police Department at 832-7509 or the Tips Hotline at 843-TIPS(8477).
Callers to the tips hotline may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest.