Park District of Oak Park officials are undertaking an audit of all metal memorial and commemorative plaques after a bronze plaque was stolen from Taylor Park over the weekend.

Superintendent of Grounds Mike Grandy said he was driving by the southwest corner of Taylor Park, Sunday morning, when he observed the plaque commemorating former park commissioner Henry A. Taylor, the park district’s first board president (1912-1927) was missing. The plaque, measuring about 12 x 24 inches, ¾-inch thick and weighing about 40 pounds, was glued and bolted to a stone base.

“There are tool marks on the stone where someone got a pry bar under the plaque and pulled it loose,” said Grandy. Monday morning, park district staff were making phone calls to various recycling outfits within a 20-mile radius.

“All other park district sites that host monuments and commemorative materials will be checked as well,” said Grandy.

While the 40-pound bronze plate will cost over $1,000 to replace, the thieves will get much less for scrapping it, perhaps less than $100.

The park district contacted 12 recycling centers Monday to ask them to be on the lookout for the plaque.

Grandy said district staff were checking on other park monuments as they went about their work Monday.

“To the best of my knowledge, nothing else is missing,” he said.

It’s not the first loss the park district has incurred-thieves stole 30 feet of copper gutter off Cheney Mansion on Feb. 24. The theft of precious metals continues despite police arresting six people in Oak Park and one in River Forest since October.

In that time, some 1,000 feet of copper gutter and downspout, valued conservatively at $16,000, has been stolen. Oak Park police busted three people, allegedly attempting to steal 1,000 feet of communications cable, valued at $25,000, from a CTA site. Another $6,000 in copper was stolen from the construction site of Dominican University in River Forest last spring.

Precious metal thieves, who are usually stealing to support drug habits, scrap the metal at yards in Cicero, around the West Side and Maywood, as well as a few “bootleg” joints operated out of individual’s garages.

“We’ve visited them all,” said Commander Clemet Harbour, who said there’s always someone to replace those they arrest.

Prior to 2008, scrap dealers weren’t required to cooperate with police. That supposedly changed New Year’s Day, when Public Law 95-0253 took effect. It requires scrap dealers to “verify and record the identity of each person from whom scrap metals are acquired,” and to keep those records for three years.

It was thought the law would give local cops the ability to identify individuals selling scrap metal, and thus get a leg up investigating thefts. However, the law sets the threshold at $100 worth of copper, aluminum or brass.

St. Giles Church, 1043 Columbian Ave., lost 56 feet of copper downspout, valued at $2,000, between Feb. 1 and Feb. 4, and again between March 25 and 27, the seventh and eighth times in 16 months the parish has been victimized.

Other churches victimized multiple times include Ascension Church on East Avenue, Cavalry Memorial on Lake Street, and First Presbyterian on Quick Avenue in River Forest.

Despite police attention, the crime is quick and lucrative. As one self-described former metal thief told Wednesday Journal last year, “You bring in two or three [10-foot-long copper down]spouts at $30 a piece-that’s $90 for about two minutes of stealing.”

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