OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The lure of big money for scrap metal has sunk thieves to a new low -- stealing from Washington's already cash-strapped forest service.
Thieves have been known to steal everything from copper wiring in electrical substations to manhole covers. But there's a new one. State Department of Natural Resources officers say metal thieves are stealing entire gates that protect forest roads.
"We're used to people breaking locks and forcing the gates open," said DNR Officer Jason Bodine, who discovered a gate missing in a forest in Lewis County, "but stealing the whole gate is a new one."
The huge, metal pipes and gates that weight hundreds of pounds and are designed to keep motorized vehicles out of sensitive forest lands.
Thieves used torches to cut the gate into pieces and take it away in segments. Bodine discovered the pieces at the home of a person of interest he interviewed. That man now faces felony theft charges, jail time and thousands of dollars in fines.
One gate costs tax payers about $4,000 to replace. Since that first discovery, five more gates have been stolen.
DNR said the crimes are so serious, they installed hidden surveillance equipment in hopes of catching criminals in the act.