Berkeley is in the midst of an unusual crime wave and city officials have so far been helpless to stop the culprits who are robbing $1 million from city coffers one coin at a time.
The city manager’s office released a report on Tuesday that claims vandals are jamming small objects into parking meter coin slots. The damage is occurring at such a rapid pace that city maintenance crews can’t keep up with repairs despite the recent hiring of two additional meter maintenance workers.
City officials say the vandals are damaging the meters for a variety of reasons. But most often it’s so they can park their cars for longer periods of time than the meters would allow without the threat of getting a ticket.
“It may not seem like much to the people who are jamming the meters but the cumulative impact in pretty significant on city services,” Deputy City Manager Phil Kamlarz. “A million bucks is a lot of money that could be spent on much needed city programs.”
According to the report, the neighborhoods hardest hit were around the UC campus where the 813 meters in the area were vandalized over 5,000 times during a six month period ending last November. That is four times the rate of the downtown, where 732 meters were jammed 1,250 times. The 145 meters in the Elmwood District were jammed least at 40 times during the same six months.
UC Director of Community Relations Irene Hegarty said it would be rash to assume that that students are responsible because the majority of the vandalism is near the university.