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Monday, October 24, 2011

"Metal Monsters" Steal Copper Bell from St. Mary's Cathedral

Posted By on Mon, Oct 24, 2011 at 2:45 PM


Nothing is sacred anymore -- especially if it's two and a half tons of valuable metal.

The moral qualms of stealing from a church didn't stop the thieves who snatched a 5,300-pound copper bell from St. Mary's Cathedral over the weekend.

Police said Monday that a tourist reported the historic bell, which survived the 1906 earthquake, missing on Sunday morning.

The job was most likely done by professional metal thieves who've been traversing the Bay Area stealing copper, according to San Francisco police Inspector Brian Danker.

"The Bay Area is being plagued right now with what I call metal monsters -- copper scrap metal thieves," Danker said. "Typically metal monsters are crack or methamphetamine addicts with no scruples at all."

These thieves have hit a variety of places in recent months with no moral regard, Danker said.

"A few months ago they took out the entire grid of Mount Zion hospital while stealing stuff," he said. "The secondary generators kicked in, but when they investigated, they found that all the copper wiring was taken from the grid."

Police have no suspects yet and are still reviewing video surveillance, noting that the likelihood that this is connected to other metal thefts is very possible. An amateur wouldn't be able to move the bell that easily.  "You have to have a hydraulic lift to do that," Danker said.

A "substantial" reward is being offered in exchange for information leading to the return of the bell, which was in the original St. Mary's church until it burned down in 1962, after which the bell was on display at its current location.

Danker said other targets have been hit recently, mostly for their copper wiring. On Friday, he said, suspects broke into a building across the street from St. Mary's on Sacred Heart High School property at Gough and Turk streets and stole wires, causing thousands of dollars in damages. And the episcopal church on Van Ness Avenue and Broadway Street recently had its copper railings cut and taken from the front of the church.

"They're grabbing anything and everything," he said.

Anyone with more information can contact Inspector Danker at 614-3463.

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Ellen Huet


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