logo

California city extends funding for plastic theft task force

By: Roger Renstrom

March 26, 2013

CITY OF INDUSTRY, CALIF. — The City of Industry is extending its funding through June 30 for the plastic industrial theft task force of the Los Angeles County sheriff's office.

Meanwhile, multiple efforts with others are underway to try to extend the program

"We decided to fund it until the end of our fiscal year," said Kevin Radecki, city manager. "The task force has been doing fine on [managing] its finances."

The City Council authorized expenditure of $1.2 million for the program, which began Sept. 1, 2011, but those funds were exhausted around the end of February. The task force operates from a sheriff's station in the city.

Sgt. Nabeel Mitry, task force coordinator, said, "We told them [City of Industry] to keep us alive through June, and we will see what other avenues we can take."

The extension may cost about $270,000 although "there is no specific dollar figure," Radecki said.

Over 18 months, the task force of five sheriff's investigators and a postal inspector has recovered and returned stolen intact product and granulated pellets with a value of more than $7 million, shut down 28 sites being used to stow and grind trademarked plastic products, seized numerous granulators and other pieces of machinery and equipment and arrested 68 persons who were charged with theft or possession of the stolen goods.

The task force has forwarded cases to prosecutors' offices in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

In a report on the task force's February activities, Mitry said, "A great deal of time was spent following up on several key investigations, which involved numerous hours of investigating and surveillance. We look forward to these investigations leading us to additional large-scale illicit sites being utilized to stow and/or grind stolen trademarked plastic products."

In trying to extend the program, Mitry has met with top administrators in the sheriff's office and U.S. Rep. Grace Napolitano (D), whose district office is in El Monte, Calif. Mitry seeks an opportunity to talk with California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris.

"A lot of things are in the works" including the possibility of multi-county participation, Mitry said. "The sheriff [Lee Baca] can help out a lot with contacts with other chiefs of police."

One hope is that several counties might agree to dedicate the services of a single investigator to the task force. "We are looking into all options," Mitry said in a telephone interview. "The problem of plastics theft will not go away."