By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item
SUNBURY — With an already decreasing amount of money coming in from parking meters in the city, some people are taking “free parking” to a whole new level.
Sunbury police said they have been seeing more and more parking meters show up at the police station broken and robbed of their coins.
Officers said they are hot on the trail of those who have perpetrated the recent vandalism and theft spree involving meters throughout the city.
“We are getting close,” Chief Steve Mazzeo said. “With the help of concerned citizens, we are honing in on the culprits.”
More than 30 meters have been smashed and money stolen from them in the past two years, he said.
The recent string of smashed meters comes after Mazzeo began to receive reports that parking meters have been found on the street and even on top of a shed.
“This has got to stop, and we will make sure it does,” he said. “Anyone involved will be caught and prosecuted.”
Most of the incidents have occurred on South Fourth Street, Mazzeo said.
A meter weighs about 20 pounds, and vandals are shaking them and breaking off the tops, then stealing the loose change, Mazzeo said.
Meters cost about $110 each, and the chief said the department has been repairing them, but sooner or later, the vandalism could get costly if the vandals keep going.
“That won’t happen,” he said. “We will stop this and stop it fast.”
The decline in Sunbury’s parking meter collections might be because people are finding other places to park instead of plugging quarters into one of the nearly 1,000 meters the city owns. Sunbury has collected about $34,000 so far in 2012, compared with $76,000 in 2011.
In 2010, the city collected $78,000, which included $4,000 in December, the month when the city usually offers free parking. That’s because Sunbury did not bag meters in 2010, so some motorists continued to feed them. In 2011, the city bagged the meters.
The city sells yearly permits, which allow motorists to park anywhere there is a meter without inserting coins.
Parking and street-sweeping fines totaled $61,450 in 2009. In 2010, those collections hit $65,551. In 2011, the city collected $65,562. To date this year, the total is $41,956.
Sunbury police are asking anyone with information about the vandalism to call them at 286-4584.