The financial reward for stealing a set of unassembled aluminum bleachers and selling them to a local metal shop were too tempting for a 34-year-old Saanich man.
Last week, the man pleaded guilty in Victoria Provincial Court to stealing the Lakehill Little League bleachers from Ambassador Park in December of 2013 and January of 2014.
The City of Victoria had donated the sections of surplus bleachers to Lakehill Little League in November of 2013 and the league organizers were awaiting the necessary parts to assemble them into a grandstand. In the meantime, the bleacher benches were stored in dugouts at Ambassador Park, next to Lake Hill elementary school.
“The first 14 benches were actually crushed by the recycler, so we thought we lost the chance to build the bleachers, we thought it was over,” said Lakehill Little League president Ted Austin.
To purchase an aluminum grandstand of equal size would cost the league $16,000 to $18,000, Austin said.
Luckily, a Victoria city employee, who had once played Lakehill baseball, recognized the benches at the metal recycler and tipped off police.
Saanich Police was alerted that the suspect had provided an explanation regarding the origin of the aluminum, along with his identification.
Speculating the thief would likely return for the rest of the benches, Saanich Const. Mark Pamminger covertly placed small, distinctive Block Watch decals on hidden areas of the benches where they would not be easily viewable.
Two days later, the same man showed up at the business with another load of aluminum benches with newly affixed Block Watch decals in place and police were notified.
“In the seven years since I became president, I’ve seen this league grow from 140 kids to an expected 350 kids this year,” Austin said. “This is all volunteer driven. We had two diamonds, and through a lot of hard volunteer work, we now have five diamonds, including a pair of backstops with $5,000 worth of fence posts that we recycled one weekend.”
With the remainder of the benchers recovered, Lakehill was able to order the parts and fabricate additional planks to complete the grandstand.
The man was arrested by Victoria Police and turned over to Saanich Police. He confessed to having stolen the property over the course of several nights, and he voluntarily turned over a large box of bleacher assembly hardware to police.
Dennis Tyler Cox, 34, was sentenced in late January to one count of theft over $5,000.
He received a suspended sentence of two years probation, with a number of conditions including the completion of 100 hours of community work and paying restitution of $1,540 to Lakehill Little League.
Registration for the 2015 Lakehill Little League season is open this weekend for boys aged 3-13 and and girls aged 3-13. Pay online at lakehillball.com or pay by cheque to Lakehill Little League, PO Box 30011, Reynolds Post Office, Saanich, B.C., V8X 5E1.