The theft of a trailer full of kayaks at Berkeley's Aquatic Park isjeopardizing a youth program already struggling to stay afloatbecause of budget cuts. Someone made off with the trailer containing 12 kayaks, 16 lifejackets and 14 paddles between April 6 and 13. The trailer had beenparked off Bolivar Drive, a dirt road just east of Interstate 80. The thief probably hitched the white, unmarked trailer onto a truckor van, perhaps not knowing that kids' red, blue and yellow kayakswere inside - or that the boats were used by the Berkeley BoostersAssociation Police Activities League. The nonprofit group reachesout to low-income youths ages 10 to 14 by having them interact withpolice officers and local businesses. |
A construction crew found some of the life jackets discarded in atrash bin in East Oakland, but the kayaks - five Cobras and sevenScrambler XTs - are still missing. The trailer and stolenequipment, most of it used, are worth up to $15,000. "It's a great loss for us," said Fele Uperesa, the group's programdirector. Youths and Berkeley Boosters staffers used the kayaks during theschool year and in the summer at Aquatic Park, the Berkeley Marinaand on camping trips to places such as Folsom Lake.
The equipment belongs to the California Police Activities League,the Berkeley group's parent organization. The state organization,which also lent the boats to other groups in the region, toldBerkeley Boosters on Wednesday that it was up to them to replacethe kayaks. Insurance won't cover the theft. John Abrate, president of the Berkeley Boosters board, said, "Thefinancial impact of replacing the stolen equipment could bankruptthe program, which is already cash-strapped due to reductions incity of Berkeley funding." The city, which provides most of the group's funding, has slashedits contribution by about 15 percent over the past three years,officials said. The group also receives donations and foundationmoney.
Berkeley police are reviewing surveillance cameras in the areawhere the trailer was stolen but have reported no leads. The kayaks had been stored in the same lot for the past four yearswithout incident, officials said. Cheryl La Rosa Longo, executive director of the Berkeley group, hada simple message for whoever was responsible: "Give them back." Instead of trying to get money for the stolen items, the thiefshould return them to the youths, no questions asked, she said. "If they give them back to us, it would be so much moremeaningful," Longo said.
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