SAN LEANDRO (CBS SF) - An Oakland man allegedly donned an orange vest and pretended to be a city worker in order to steal cast iron grates at the base of street trees in San Leandro, police said Friday.
Officials from the city's Public Works Department first reported the thefts on Monday when they discovered several metal tree grates had been stolen on the north end of 14th Street, said police spokesman Lt. Jeff Tudor.
The grates, which cover the base of street trees at sidewalk level, are very heavy and made of cast iron.
At about 3:45 p.m. Thursday, a San Leandro police officer noticed a man pulling up a grate from the base of a tree near San Leandro Boulevard and Creekside Plaza.
The man was wearing a bright orange work vest similar to those worn by city workers and had an open can of paint next to him, as if he was conducting legitimate work, Tudor said.
When the officer contacted the man, he spotted two other cast iron grates in the back of a black pickup truck. A license plate check determined the truck was stolen out of Oakland.
The man, identified by police as Oakland resident Abundio Colmenero, 57, was arrested on suspicion of possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of stolen property and grand theft.
Inside the vehicle, police also discovered receipts for the sale of more than 1,600 pounds of recycled materials.
"This was a well planned crime," Tudor said. "Colmenero used props and construction type uniforms to help conceal his criminal act.
"It's rewarding when you can arrest a subject like Colmenero who is stealing city property," he said.
(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
for more features.