Meter thief at large

Suspect sought in $7-$10K in losses, damages

With the quiet of a burglar’s finely finessed tools or through a brute hacksaw meter-decapitation, someone has been making off with parking money from the City of Hood River.

“This has been going on for a few months,” said Hood River Police Department Detective Don Cheli, who notes that the parking meter theft incidents are not a matter of small change.

“They’ve taken between $7,000 and $10,000,” said Cheli, whose loss-estimates are based on average income from the tapped meters and do not include the additional cost and labor to replace broken units.

“They’ve been cutting off the double meter heads or making keys,” said Cheli. “It costs $607.50 for a replacement double meter, not counting the labor.”

“We arrested one individual on an outstanding warrant from California, but we couldn’t hold him at NORCOR for health issues. He had a heart attack in the ambulance. He’s had numerous heart attacks.”

According to Cheli, Walter Lewis Schmidt, 65, was cited, following his warrant arrest, for theft and criminal mischief, based on police-obtained evidence. He was released as a result of a medical condition that required transport to a Portland hospital.

Schmidt was scheduled to appear in Hood River Circuit Court on Oct. 1, but did not show.

Whether Schmidt is the Hood River meter-thief is yet to be proven; however, he was recently arrested in Salem and in California, on similar charges. According to Salem police reports, Schmidt was caught in the act of stealing money from meters.

Schmidt has additional police and prison records that include a history of meter theft and the use of burglary tools.

Three Hood River meters have already been replaced following the first round of thefts, according to Cheli, and another two are awaiting replacement.

What is certain in the meter-mangling mystery is that Hood River County Sheriff’s deputies recently located a stash of dismantled and drained meters — from Hood River and other unknown jurisdictions — at the Herman Creek trailhead on Sept. 25. Schmidt is a suspect in connection with the find.

“Schmidt was picked up and later released in Stevenson recently and his car (a silver 1994 Ford Thunderbird) was impounded,” said Cheli. While it is unknown whether Schmidt has retrieved his prior vehicle, Cheli notes that he may also have access to a Dodge pickup truck.

Schmidt is a white male, 5 feet 10 inches, 175 pounds, with blue eyes. He has mug shot photos that depict him alternately with close-cropped, blonde, reddish, brown or white hair. He is also shown in glasses and with a mustache.

The thefts, according to Cheli, have occurred at all hours. Citizens who may observe suspicious activity around city meters are advised to contact the Hood River Police Department via 9-1-1 or Cheli at 541-387-5256 during business hours.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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