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86 Parking Meters Stolen from Downtown Stockton

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STOCKTON --

Finding a space to park in most downtowns can be a challenge at night, but in Stockton these days, the real challenge is to find the meters that should be standing guard at those spaces.

"Over the past two weeks, approximately 86 downtown parking meters have been stolen," said Stockton Police Officer Joe Silva.

That's right -- 86 meters that should be helping to boost the city's bottom line were literally sawed out of commission by a pesky crew with a pipe cutter.

"And then, taking the top part of the meter... the part that actually contains the change," Silva said.

Maybe they're desperate or just determined to do wrong by the city of Stockton.

So how did the number of M.I.A. meters get to more than just one or two, but to just over seven dozen before the police discovered what was going on?

"Most of these meters were reported online, not called in -- reported online. Those reports, we don't get those for a couple of days," Silva said.

Buildings near targeted intersections, like east Washington and south Sutter streets, have surveillance cameras, but investigators have just been assigned to this case and haven't started to ask around for those images -- yet.

New parking meters can cost up to $1,000 apiece, but Stockton had all the needed replacements in its warehouse stockpile.

Some companies estimate that a full meter can hold between $30 to $60 in change, but thanks to Stockton's bankruptcy, the culprits in this caper will cash in less.

In the financial fall out from going broke, Stockton reorganized and created its own parking authority -- one that empties meters much more regularly.

And that's not the only benefit.

"We've added the credit card option on there and a lot of people are taking advantage of that, so there's not really as much money in the machines as there once was," said Stockton's Vice Mayor Christina Fugazi.

Stockton will be out the city staff time needed to weld-in replacements and will be low on meter inventory for while.

At the end of the day, the person to walk away with the most money out of all this may be the person who helps solve this case.

"Somebody knows who did it," Fugazi said.

Crime Stoppers is offering up to $10,000 to the tipster who helps green-light the arrest that ends this meter mayhem.

Anyone with information is encouraged to call the Stockton Police Department at (209) 937-8377 or Crime Stoppers at (209) 946-0600.