The LAPD moved out of the old Rampart police station a few years ago but the Historic Filipintown building is not necessarily empty. While the cops moved out, criminals in search of valuable pieces of scrap metal and copper have moved in – or more like broken in – to the former station at Temple Street and Benton Way. Residents who attended a community meeting last month heard that the station sustained water damage in late November after copper thieves cut into pipes that were still in use. A few months earlier, burglars broke into the building and made off with electrical boxes, said burglary Dect. Teresa Hernandez of the Rampart Division, which is now housed in a new building on Sixth Street. “We have been having ongoing problems.”
The burglars who stole the electrical boxes were not caught but two men were arrested by police following the day-time break-in on Nov. 29. Neighbors alerted police to the break-in, and officers encountered the men as the thieves were carrying a large pipe across the property, Hernandez said. The men ran off and climbed over a fence only to be apprehended by officers waiting nearby. A third suspect – who tipped off the two other men with a cell phone call – got away. A judge ordered both men to pay the city $37,500 in restitution to repair damage to the building, Hernandez said.
After cutting into the pipe with running water, the two men found a valve to shut off the water and then proceeded to start cutting other sections of pipe, Hernandez said. The men also apparently cut into some asbestos material as they were trying to steal the pipes.
Community activist Anne Hars, who is leading an effort to re-use the station for other public purposes, said the breaks-in and damage could have been avoided if nearby residents were allowed to become more involved in the conversion of the old police station, which is slated to be converted into the home for the LAPD SWAT Team and other elements of the Metro Division. “How many hundreds of thousands of dollars will tax payers have to shell out to cover the damage through neglect that the property has undergone,” Hars said an email to Councilman Eric Garcetti.
Dect. Hernandez said she advises citizens to lock everything but is not sure what else can be done to protect the old Rampart station given staffing and financial limitations. “It’s got a fence and there are locks all around.”