An Armchair Mayor editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
THERE REALLY ought to be a special place in hell for the contemptible lowlifes who have been stealing plaques from community monuments and memorial benches.
More than 20 of them, worth thousands of dollars, have been ripped off from Riverside Park and other sites in the past few weeks.
This isn’t your garden-variety vandalism. It’s serious theft. The metal in the plaques is valuable. Typically, they cost several hundred dollars each and, presumably, they’re being stolen for resale as scrap metal.
A walk through the park these days reveals a trail of stone cairns and concrete plinths that are now bare of the historical markers they once held. They’re bald, bereft of their bronze and copper plaques, with only sheared-off bolts and remnants of glue showing where they once told stories about our community.
Among the places desecrated are the park Cenotaph, Uji gardens and the location marker for Fort Kamloops. Plaques are also gone from many other special places, as well as some of the park benches on which families memorialized love ones.
The Overlanders statue at the corner of First Avenue and Victoria Street, and Memorial Arena have also been hit. Some of the plaques — such as the one at Memorial Arena — are themselves pieces of history, and now they’re gone.
The job of replacing them is daunting, not only expensive but in some cases difficult to reprise the wording. And what will they be replaced with to avoid future theft — plastic?
This is a special kind of crime, an insult to the community, a theft of history and pride. It calls for strong punishment. First, of course, the perpetrators have to be caught, which won’t be easy.
It’s highly doubtful the stolen plaques will show up at any local scrap-metal dealer. Somewhere, though, there’s probably some bootleg operator who pays a few pennies on the dollar and melts them down in a back-alley smelter.
But if they are brought to justice, the crooks should get more than a slap on the wrist. The penalty needs to recognize the damage done to the community. That’s technically possible — even theft under $5,000 can net imprisonment of up to two years.
Barring that, or in addition to, some creative sentencing is in order, including full restitution of costs, major community service including being put on the work detail that installs replacements, a full written public apology as well as spending time at the sites personally apologizing to those who pass by, plus a few public speeches of regret.
Even then, it won’t begin to be enough.