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City of Stockton Battles Parking Meter Thefts

STOCKTON -- Standing tall in the middle of the block is one of the survivors -- one of a shrinking number of Stockton parking meters left standing as almost 700 have disappeared since last May.

"I never seen the person, but I seen all the meters, most of the meters, gone. Sometimes they come fix them, two to three days -- they're gone," said Sameer Abdulla from behind the counter at Discount Market.

He's seen it happen over and over again in the 11 years he's been selling sundries at the corner of Market and San Joaquin streets.

In October 2015, 86 downtown meter tops disappeared.

City police eventually solved that case when they found the severed heads piled up in a homeless camp and made an arrest.

Now they're releasing surveillance images of the latest suspected parking meter pilferer.

"We believe he is transient. He does frequent the downtown area, but hopefully once this photograph gets blasted out on the news tonight we'll be able to figure out exactly who he is," said Stockton Officer Joseph Silva.

Not only is this trend of thefts disturbing, t's also costly for the city of Stockton.

Each topless meter represents about $800 worth of replacement fees, installation fees and missing revenue.

Just multiply that by the 682 that have been sliced off with pipe cutters or pried off in the last year and the cost adds up to almost $546,000.

But it's not adding up to all the thieves might've hoped for themselves.

Stockton, unlike many cities across the country, has its own parking authority.

That means the meters are emptied more frequently than the national average.

A city parking payment app also allows drivers to pay without putting money in a meter.

"There's only, at any given time, a couple bucks that are inside these parking meters...but it is inconveniencing a lot of people, the business owners," said Silva.

"Some people come and ask us if they can park outside. You could, but there's no meter, the meter maid might come and give you a ticket," said Abdulla.

When it comes to such tickets, Stockton's Public Information Officer Connie Cochran tells FOX40 the city understands what's happening and that a driver may have to park in a spot minus its meter.

She also says that driver may be cited if they stay in that spot past the maximum time listed for the space.

Abdulla just wishes there could be a different system altogether.

"It's crazy," he said, shaking his head.

A tip to Crimestoppers that leads to an arrest in this case could earn you up to $10,000.