In the Sacramento County parks system many main entrances have a kiosk attendant to take parking payments.
However, times when there is no attendant or if someone wants to pay by credit card, the county parks department has been relying on parking machines.
For 18 months Chief Ranger Michael Doane said they had no problems, but then four thefts and one attempted theft occurred in less than two weeks starting July 17.
In some instances entire pay stations were ripped from the ground.
"At River Bend Park someone used vehicle to pull the pay station out of the ground, the same thing happened at Watt Avenue Park five days later," Doane said.
The pay stations sit inside steel boxes that are locked when the park is closed.
The boxes that used to surround the stolen pay stations at Watt and River Bend are now closed indefinitely. For those two thefts, someone stole the machine while the boxes were unlocked.
But this week at Sacramento Bar, someone didn’t even wait for the park to open and tried to use a blow torch to break through the box.
"Monday morning, at about 3:45 in the morning, one of our park ranger assistants who was opening up the park interrupted the theft in progress and his vehicle was actually side swiped by the suspect leaving in his truck," Doane said.
Doane said his best guess is someone incorrectly believes the machines are similar to ATMs. However, they mostly process credit card transactions and are emptied of the little cash they do have every night.
That doesn’t mean there’s no money involved though. These machines cost about $15,000 each, according to Doane.
The county is looking into when and how to replace them; they would normally turn to their payment drop boxes in the meantime. However, at least three of those have been stolen too.
While the county figures out how to secure the payment stations they’re asking the community to be vigilant.
The parks department believes one person may be responsible for all the pay machine incidents. That person left items behind at the Sacramento Bar attempted theft and may have been caught on surveillance footage. They believe the suspect is a white male in his 40s driving an extended cab pickup truck, similar to a Chevy Silverado.