“Crimes of opportunity” at Valley College last month included stolen copper

Theft of copper piping was the second reported crime in January and the second offense to Campus Center in two months.

By Isaac Dektor, Managing Editor

Copper piping connecting Media Arts to its air conditioning unit was stolen early last month in a spree of seven unconnected petty crimes, some of which remain unsolved.

Older buildings such as Campus Center, where Media Arts is located, are connected to external AC units through copper pipes. The copper is particularly vulnerable as thieves do not have to break into the building itself. Valley’s Sheriff Security Officer Romero estimated the copper piping to be eight feet in length and half an inch in diameter. Copper sells for roughly $4.5 per pound — depending on the specific kind of copper, the thieves could make approximately $64.

“It’s a hot commodity nowadays and they try to take anything they can sell,” said Security Officer Romero.

Last semester, the Valley College Sheriff’s department ramped up patrols to deter crime, increasing personnel at each school and reassigning “rovers,” who were mandated to move between schools based on need.

According to the crime blotter in the sheriff's office at Valley, seven crimes were reported on campus in January, including the copper theft: three incidents of petty theft, three vandalisms and one instance of “exhibiting a weapon in a threatening manner.” A crime is classified as petty theft when less than $950 worth of goods are stolen. One of the reported vandalisms refers to an incident in which perpetrators graffitied the fourth floor of the parking garage. Additionally, copper tubing was vandalized in or outside of Media Arts two days before the piping was stolen from the same building.

As previously reported by the Star, a vandal broke into the Campus Center Building in the final days of the fall semester. The unidentified perpetrator shattered windows and damaged tarps that were set up to protect the asbestos-ridden building from corrosion caused by a pipe burst in September 2020.

Security Officer Romero noted that crime rates are going up.

“That’s what’s going on right now — it’s crimes of opportunity,” said Romero. “We can be patrolling and you never know when people come out of the woodwork, especially now with the homeless situation.”

Hillard-Heintz, a security risk management firm, issued a report that was used by the Los Angeles Sheriff department last fall to assess the effectiveness of their policing and create staffing proposals for each school. The report cited “homeless non-students” as a factor in the rising crime rate in Valley’s vicinity.

The sheriff’s department’s staffing proposal compared national crime rates generated by the FBI to the crime rates of areas surrounding all nine LACCD campuses. According to the report, an individual’s chance of being a victim of crime at Valley and in its direct vicinity is 1 in 37. Valley’s violent crime rate is 36 percent over the national average, while its property crime rate is only 6 percent above the average.

However, the district average is roughly 143 percent over for violent crime and 50 percent over for property crimes. The overall figure is driven up by Los Angeles Southwest and Los Angeles Trade-Tech colleges, which have violent crime rates three and a half and six times over the national average, respectively.

According to Security Officer Romero, the Board of Trustees are scheduled to vote on a new five-year contract in March between the Los Angeles Sheriff’s department and the district following its second six-month extension.

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