STOCKTON, Calif. - Stockton business owners are frustrated by an increase in metal thefts and a lack of response from police.
At St. Mark's Plaza along March Lane, pipes and valves have been removed in several spots. So have the metal cages that were installed to prevent those thefts.
"They probably get $20 and it costs us 6,000. It's frustrating. We're trying to keep jobs here and support families," Kelley Bestolarides with Bestolarides CPA said.
At one spot in the plaza, the locks have been taken but the cage is still there. Business people fully expect the cage and pipes underneath to be gone soon.
While the business owners and Behnam Lazar of the Hanging Gardens Restaurant insist they call police about the thefts, they're unhappy with the response they get. They're advised to file theft reports online because waiting for an officer to arrive and take a report can take up to 12 hours.
"We're just as frustrated as the public," Officer Joe Silva, spokesperson for the Stockton Police Department, said.
Silva said with their small police staff, priorities are not on property crimes.
"Our main priority right now is guns and gangs and getting violent crime down. Just this year alone, overall crime is down 12 percent."
Even though a sales tax was approved by voters to hire another 100 officers for a total 485, Stockton has just 359 officers on the streets. For years, Stockton has watched just as many officers leave or retire as it has hired.