Hundreds Of Los Angeles Fire Hydrants Stolen As Fire Season Starts

In a troubling development, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department is investigating the theft of 99 fire hydrants since the beginning of the year, raising significant concerns as the fire season begins.

These fire hydrant thefts add to a disturbing trend of infrastructure thefts, including street lamp poles in Pasadena and a nationwide rise in electric vehicle charging station thefts. Such thefts have become a serious problem for public infrastructure, costing billions of taxpayer dollars.

The surge in these crimes is partly attributed to Proposition 14, passed by California voters in 2014, which classifies thefts under $950 as misdemeanors. With limited prosecutorial resources, thefts with lower resale values are deprioritized compared to violent crimes.

This, coupled with police shortages, has created an environment where criminals feel emboldened.

“These fire hydrant thefts are yet another sign of how crime is out of control in Los Angeles County,” said former Assistant U.S. Attorney General Nathan Hochman, who is running against Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon. “Thieves know they’ll face little or no consequences if they are caught, so they’re willing to risk the public’s safety for a small profit.”

Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva suggested that a shortage of law enforcement personnel is contributing to the thefts. “This is no surprise to me, when you have more crooks and less cops you’ve got more competition,” Villanueva said. “It used to be wire stripping, then it was statue stealing, and now it’s fire hydrants. It’s a natural consequence of the defund-the-police movement.”

As of December 2023, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department was short approximately 2,800 employees, including 1,200 sworn deputies.

According to the Golden State Water Company, which owns the hydrants, 302 hydrants were stolen in the south side of Los Angeles County between January 2023 and last month.

In a statement to ABC 7 on rising hydrant thefts, GSWC said it is replacing hydrants, installing hydrant locks, and informing local scrap yards that receiving hydrants is a federal offense.

California’s wildfire season tends to last from April to October, suggesting continued fire hydrant thefts could risk public safety.

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