The ongoing theft of fire hydrants in Redlands is not just a petty crime, it's also a public safety threat. Redlands officials say a thief recently turned off the water on 16 hydrants by stealing the bulk of the mechanisms, rendering the hydrants useless.
"What they are getting is pennies on the dollar compared to the cost to the taxpayers of replacing that equipment," said Carl Baker, with the City of Redlands.
Fixing the damage will cost about $40,000. That's a tall order for a cash-starved municipality in an area strapped for cash. And if the hydrants were needed to fight a fire, response time would be meaningless with no workable water awaiting.
"It could represent a public safety threat both to property and lives," said Baker.
Metal theft is not new and a glance across town reveals many hydrants are capped with plastic lids to deter crime.
This city and others have been hit by metal thieves before. However, now the thieves aren't just stealing parts that are easy to remove.
Police say they have no suspects but they're increasing surveillance. And they remind people, only city workers and firefighters should be dabbling with hydrants.
Residents are asked to call authorities if they see something of interest.