Theft prompts added patrols 

Sheriff’s deputies will increase patrols at an abandoned minimum-security jail in a remote part of the county after a major theft of copper wire and hand tools.

More than $100,000 in damages and stolen items have been taken from the county’s Honor Camp jail facility since June 2005, according to a recently released report as well as park rangers who patrol the area. Located in Pescadero Creek Park, off Alpine Road, the facility has suffered break-ins at least five times since 2003, when it was shuttered due to budget cuts, according to the county Sheriff’s Office.

"I know our patrols makes passing checks, but we don’t have personnel posted out there," Sheriff’s Capt. Mark Hanlon said.

County officials said patrols were increased in the area after the biggest theft yet, on Feb. 14, but couldn’t say by how much. Park rangers generally pass by the facility’s entrance once or twice a day, but don’t regularly tour the 25-building campus because it is part of the county jail system,county Park Superintendent Dave Moore said.

While stolen hand tools and vandalism appear to have been the target of earlier break-ins, February’s theft was more organized and involved suspects using some sort of vehicle to pull yards of one-half-inch copper wire — used to power the facility’s two-dozen buildings with electricity — from underground, Park Ranger Matthew DelCarlo.

"There have been some isolated thefts before this, but more buildings were broken into this time and more was taken," Moore said. Shovels, rakes and fireproof firefighter coats were also taken in the most recent theft, rangers said.

Copper wire thefts have seen a dramatic increase at construction sites and other locations across the country, as the price of copper has soared to more than $2 per pound.

While there are no immediate plans to reopen the facility due to the cost of operating in such a remote location, renewed use would now require new electrical wiring be installed, DelCarlo said.

Because of Honor Camp’s remote location, hiring permanent or frequent security likely

wouldn’t be cost-effective, Supervisor Rich Gordon said. Likewise, an expensive alarm system would leave thieves with plenty of time to escape before police arrived, Gordon said.

"We may need to make a decision sooner rather than later [on what the county intends to due with the property] in light of these thefts," Gordon said.

From redeveloping the one-time Boy Scout camp into a park facility to demolishing the camp or reopening it as a minimum security jail where inmates help clear forest trails, all options are currently on the table, Gordon said.

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