Building manager: SD police ignored theft in progress

SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Security for a downtown San Diego residential high-rise claim they got no response from police after burglars were caught stealing iron tree grates from the sidewalk outside their building.

The incident began April 15, after surveillance cameras outside Pinnacle Marina Tower captured two men stuffing two, 300-pound iron tree grates into the back of a blue-colored Chevrolet Uplander. The Pinnacle's general manager, Bill Lawrence, said that after seeing the video, he believed the thefts would continue.

"We really were concerned that this was going to progress," he said.         

A few days later, building security got a break. From a window, a security guard spotted the thieves in the act and called 911. However, Lawrence says emergency dispatcher told the guard they could not send any officers out until the following day.

"It's very frustrating to think, here you have the opportunity to do something, here the security officer is watching the theft as its occurring, and they can't send somebody out?" Lawrence asked.

Lawrence believes that because the Pinnacle neighbors the busy Gaslamp Quarter, officers could have been there within a minute or two.  

The office of San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria said the police department told them that "they have an open case on the matter and continue to look for the suspect(s)."

Lawrence was hoping for more than that.

"Obviously (they could) have arrested the thieves while the theft was in progress and stopped this , but they didn't."

The grates are worth up to $1,300 each. It is suspected they are being stolen for scrap.

San Diego police told Team 10 late Friday afternoon a caller to the non-emergency line was not clear that a crime was in progress at that moment. A spokesman said there was no record of a call on this incident to 911 with the department.*

While the video showed at least three people involved in taking the grates, a police spokesman said officers have one suspect in custody.

There was more details provided on the arrest in an email that read in part:

The San Diego Police Department has a series of thefts related tree grates in the downtown area. Each call is taken seriously and investigated as evident by all of our documented cases and the most recent arrest. On May 8, 2014, at 12:20 hours, Vincente Olivas, 29 years old, was arrested in connection with these thefts. He was booked into jail for grand theft. Our investigation is continuing.

The Department seeks to provide the highest level of service to all of our citizens.

(*Editor's note: The police response in this story was added late Friday afternoon, after it was initially reported on Thursday night.)

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