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Plaque stolen from Boyle Heights veterans memorial

November 11, 2012 |  4:08 pm

For 65 years, an obelisk-like monument has stood on Cesar Chavez Avenue in Boyle Heights, a tribute to Mexican Americans who gave their lives in war for the United States.

Then, sometime in October, thieves struck, making off with one of the large bronze plaques that had been fixed to the “Mexican American All Wars Memorial” in 1947. They also took two smaller ones nearby.

The motive may be money: The metal may be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars to an unscrupulous firms that bale it with other scrap and ship it to China.

To many in the community, however, it's worth is invaluable, as a historical artifact and as a symbol of a community's sacrifice.

On Veterans Day, City Councilman Jose Huizar, along with Tony Zapata, of VFW Post 4696 and LAPD Det. Bill Eagleson gathered at the memorial to honor veterans and to ask that the plaque be returned.

Huizar has asked the City Council to approve a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the thieves.

“This is sacred and hallowed ground, and for somebody to come and desecrate it, it’s a major affront to our veterans and our community,” Huizar said in a statement.

Metal theft has reached epidemic levels in California.

More than $7 billion of scrap metal was shipped out of California last year, much of it through the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Scrap operators are supposed to take reasonable precautions to make sure metal has not been stolen before buying it—but many businesses do not heed this law.

Rick Coca, a spokesman for Huizar, said some in the community were hopeful that the plaques may not have been melted or shipped yet and that they can be returned.

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--Jessica Garrison

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