L.A. Thieves Target 'Irreplaceable' Historic Bronze Light Poles in Pasadena

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Mon, Jan 24, 2011 at 9:30 AM
click to enlarge Oh this old thing? - WILLOW GLEN ANTIQUES
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  • Oh this old thing?

Antique streetlights. Lovely, historical, romantical -- but not the first thing we'd think to steal if we were looking to break ourselves off a piece of some hard city resources. (L.A.'s freakishly intelligent sun-dial parking meters, for one, might be a more satisfying place to start.)

Two middle-aged Los Angeles thieves thought differently this weekend: The pair was caught trying to bulldoze one of Pasadena's 300-to-400-pound historic bronze light poles with a stolen van Saturday morning, after allegedly succeeding at a similar theft the day before. [Pasadena Star-News]

And they're not the first on the streetlight-stealing scene. According to KTLA, 18 lamps have been stolen in a year, and five in the last two to three weeks alone.

Their 5:30 a.m. start time probably seemed diligent enough to the two history-wrecking good-for-nothings last weekend, but it was pre-dawn business as usual for the Pasadena Public Works employees who caught them.

After waking up at what seems a ridiculous hour for a Saturday, the city workers happened to be driving past Orange Grove Boulevard and Bellevue Drive right as 44-year-old Frank Bise of Lancaster and 52-year-old Steven Dickinson of Eagle Rock were allegedly doing their best to plow down the pole.

The city workers quickly radio-ed the Pasadena Police Department. That's when the thieves' dwindling badass meter (Historic bronze light poles? Really?) began to climb: An all-out police chase down the 110 South ensued, reaching speeds of 100 mph.

Which is pretty impressive for a stolen Chevy Astro with a cargo rack on top and nylon straps "that appeared to be holding the back doors closed" -- especially since the beater had just been butting metal-head with bronze light poles a few minutes earlier.

From the KTLA report:

The suspects eventually got off the freeway at Avenue 52 and sped uphill through a residential area of Highland Park. They crashed into a house at the top of Avenue 52 at Aldama Street.

The suspects jumped out of the van and ran in different directions. One of them was apprehended quickly in the backyard of a nearby home.

The second suspect hid in the backyard of a home in the 5200 block of San Rafael. Officers surrounded the house with weapons drawn, and eventually arrested the man in the front yard.

Turns out Bise was violating parole and Dickenson was driving on a suspended license. Now they've got grand theft and police evasion to add to their stellar records. Rock on, guys!

Pasadena police Lieutenant Chris Russ told the Star-News that the City of Pasadena can't afford bronze replacements for stolen lamps; instead, $3,000 "aluminum replicas" are commissioned to stand among the 90-year-old authentics. (And that's about as old as anything gets in Pasadena.)

But Russ emphasized that, in the end, the original lamps are truly priceless. From the Star-News:

It would be far too expensive to have bronze replicas of the 8-foot tall, 300-400 pound light posts made to ask it of taxpayers, Pasadena spokeswoman Ann Erdman said.

Installed in the late-1920s, "They're historic and irreplaceable," Erdman said. ...

"We are not going to let people go unpunished for stealing Pasadena's historic heritage," Erdman said. "The eyes of the City of Pasadena are watching."

According to KTLA, authorities think that "the men intended to sell the brass street lights as scrap metal for cash" and that "rising commodity prices have been a stimulus for the property crimes."

Still, this may be a new low. Hats off to Pasadena Public Works for an early-ass job well done!

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