VERNON - The number of vandalized parking meters in Vernon continues to climb, and the pieces are turning up in some unusual places.
A further 19 meters were damaged Tuesday night, following a reported 74 over the weekend of Nov. 28 and Nov. 29, the City of Vernon’s protective services manager Clint Kanester says. In most cases, the vandal, or vandals, appear to have pried open the meters and removed the clock faces, but in at least four other cases, the posts were cut off and the entire meters stolen.
With close to 100 meters damaged in total, Kanester says about 40 of the clock faces, which cost $250 to replace, have been located.
“The guy seems to be hiding them,” Kanester says. “We found some in the creek, some in garbage bins, garbage cans, thrown under staircases, in a baby buggy in the back of an alley covered over with a blanket. They’re being found in weird locations.”
If the clock faces aren’t damaged, they can be put back inside the meters, Kanester says, but it’s still a big frustration.
“It’s added a lot of work for staff trying to address this and find the clocks being hidden. There’s $20,000 in damage or more. It’s going to be the taxpayers that fund the repairs,” he says.
There’s also the lost revenue from broken meters that under normal circumstances would be collecting money for the city, plus the added confusion for members of the public, Kanester says.
“There’s the inconvenience of people not knowing what to do, whether they should move to another spot,” he says.
Technically, the city’s bylaws say you aren’t supposed to park at broken meters, but Kanester says in this case given the volume of damaged meters, as long as drivers adhere to the two hour time period, they won’t be ticketed.
Who is behind the vandalism, and why they’re doing it, remains unknown and is the focus of an ongoing RCMP investigation. The city initially believed no coins were taken from the meters, but Kanester says that might not be the case.
Once the clock face is removed, someone could use of a magnet to pick up coins through a small chute leading to the meter’s vault, Kanester says, adding the slot appears tampered with on at least some of the meters. It would be time consuming work, Kanester says, but possible.
“Certainly this is someone who obviously has a lot more time on their hands than most people,” Kanester says.
The city is asking anyone who finds a meter clock to turn it in at the community services building at 3001 32 Avenue.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact the Vernon RCMP and quote File 2015-26425.
The city is offering a $500 reward for information that leads to a conviction.
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