Who is stealing the freeway mission bells in Ventura?

An El Camino Real bell stands along southbound Highway 101 at Rose Avenue in Oxnard. Three such bells were stolen last month along the freeway in Ventura.

Photo by Juan Carlo, Ventura County Star // Buy this photo

An El Camino Real bell stands along southbound Highway 101 at Rose Avenue in Oxnard. Three such bells were stolen last month along the freeway in Ventura.

An El Camino Real bell stands along southbound Highway 101 at Rose Avenue in Oxnard. Three such bells were stolen last month along the freeway in Ventura.

Photo by Juan Carlo, Ventura County Star

An El Camino Real bell stands along southbound Highway 101 at Rose Avenue in Oxnard. Three such bells were stolen last month along the freeway in Ventura.

For 106 years, roadside bells have marked El Camino Real, the historic trail that linked California's missions.

The iconic markers now dot Highway 101 across the state, but in Ventura, some of the mission bells recently have disappeared. Thieves made off with three of the distinctive bells, which hang from tall posts curved like the tops of crooked walking sticks.

Mission bells along Highway 101 at Seaward Avenue, Telephone Road and Main Street in Ventura were reported stolen in April, said Kelly Markham, a Caltrans spokeswoman.

"The bells are an important part of California's history," Markham said. "This is theft and destruction of state property, and we take that very seriously."

It's unclear who took the bells and why, but the thefts probably took some planning. Measuring 18 inches in diameter and usually weighing 85 pounds, the bells are mounted on 15-foot-tall posts attached to concrete foundations.

"It's not like you can just reach up and take the bell," Markham said. "Whoever stole them, they were fairly determined."

In one of the recent cases, the thief unscrewed a piece of the mounting, Markham said.

Mission bells have been stolen over the years, but not frequently, Markham said. She said there hasn't been any recent increase.

The first mission bells were erected in 1906 to mark El Camino Real, which means the Royal Road in Spanish. More than 450 were installed by 1913 along the trail, also known as the Kings Highway. Before a restoration project in 2005, the number had dwindled to fewer than 100 due to theft, vandalism and other damage, according to Caltrans.

During the restoration project funded by a $1.4 million federal grant, more than 550 mission bells were installed along northbound and southbound Highway 101, and Highway 82 in the Bay Area, Caltrans reported. The replica bells were made from the same molds as the original 1906 markers.

Some bells stolen or vandalized after the restoration project were replaced with concrete replicas, Markham said. She didn't know whether the bells stolen in April were metal or concrete.

The stolen bells, which cost about $2,700 each to make, will be replaced, she said.

The thief or thieves will likely remain a mystery. Caltrans' first priority is safety, and it doesn't have the resources to conduct bell-theft investigations, she said.

The recent thefts were not reported to the Ventura California Highway Patrol station, said spokesman Officer Steve Reid.

© 2012 Ventura County Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 47

acerbas writes:

Dopers looking to sell them to a scrap dealer.

horsespinner#218774 writes:

it would be nice if they put them on the El Camino Real. That would be 118 to you non hispanics. Hwy 118 runs from mission San Buenaventura to the Whittier Narrows, the original home of mission San Gabriel Arcángel via arroyo Seco and Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana

mi2sense writes:

in response to acerbas:

Dopers looking to sell them to a scrap dealer.

Sad thing is...you're probably right on the money.

sslocal writes:

It is a good effort albeit at some expense. Feel lucky as they used to be made of brass.
I have always enjoyed the signs marking the various trails thoughout the west. The whole history of it is just amazing.

rebel123 writes:

I rather like the Lewis & Clark signs. That was a very historic adventure, actually and enjoyable to imagine the trail as it was then vs. what it is now. Some people actually like our history.

doright writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

doright writes:

in response to doright:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Guess the redstar hates the truth.

doright writes:

in response to horsespinner#218774:

it would be nice if they put them on the El Camino Real. That would be 118 to you non hispanics. Hwy 118 runs from mission San Buenaventura to the Whittier Narrows, the original home of mission San Gabriel Arcángel via arroyo Seco and Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

JimMathews writes:

in response to MoonOverMyHammy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Worthless only to you. And not unexpected

doright writes:

in response to horsespinner#218774:

it would be nice if they put them on the El Camino Real. That would be 118 to you non hispanics. Hwy 118 runs from mission San Buenaventura to the Whittier Narrows, the original home of mission San Gabriel Arcángel via arroyo Seco and Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana

HAHA, Star really hates it when someone points out racism against non hispanics. So, it is ok to insult non hispanics as your post does. That wont be removed. Sorry you think only non hispanics don't know history.

anonrp writes:

So someone commits a crime of theft from a highway and the Highway Patrol is never been notified. Caltrans states that they "take that very seriously" but fail to tell law enforcement. How can that comment be taken serious if the left (CalTrans) hand and right (CHP) hand aren't talking? These two departments are apart of the same agency. http://bth.ca.gov/AboutUs_Depts.htm

smithjc#403367 writes:

in response to anonrp:

So someone commits a crime of theft from a highway and the Highway Patrol is never been notified. Caltrans states that they "take that very seriously" but fail to tell law enforcement. How can that comment be taken serious if the left (CalTrans) hand and right (CHP) hand aren't talking? These two departments are apart of the same agency. http://bth.ca.gov/AboutUs_Depts.htm

kind of like how the fbi, dea and batfe won't share information on cases that they're working together, even when they have offices across the hall from each other.

highway33foods writes:

At 2800 bucks a shot its probably the company who makes them!

archtmf writes:

in response to MoonOverMyHammy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

If people like this ruled the world, we'd all be living in windowless rectangular stucco boxes passing the time away by picking the lint out of our navels.

IsthisAmerica writes:

Very Interesting that the thief can take them without any CHP stopping them. They appear in plan site on a area of freeway that is well traveled.

That goes to show you we have very little coverage of CHP's in our area, that is why we have huge trucks going down side streets at night like 12:00 midnight.

Lack of Law Enforcement. Where are these Cops?

I never see any of them on the freeway even when there is a bad accident?

IsthisAmerica writes:

in response to MoonOverMyHammy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Just wanted to ask you did you name your log in after the Denny's Moon over Miami Egg Sandwich. I like it, its cool.

socalmonk writes:

I would guess tweakers are ripping them for the scrap value, but I also saw a post in the "wanted" section of Craigs List Ventura County a couple of weeks ago, "Wanted, freeway bells." Still, probably tweakers.

Milimili writes:

Just attach an rfid chip or cheap gps tracker and voila! No more worry about theft!

ARealRealityCheck writes:

Why not just electrify the pole?

Fanbelt writes:

In one case a man was found unconscious, having slipped off his ladder and slammed his head against the bell. When the officer was asked the identity of the man he replied: I don't know, but his face rings a bell.

diditright writes:

The article says the bells were stolen in April and the story is written in mid May and it still hasn't been reported to the Highway Patrol or apparently law enforcement. OK, I guess. It is bad enough that taxpayer funds are paying $2700 for bells to line a highway, but then to as the article states, constantly have them stolen and not reported seems to be a waste. The Caltrans spokesman says they are routinely stolen but there hasn't been an increase in activity. Maybe its time to "get the bells outta here".

Sally writes:

in response to Fanbelt:

In one case a man was found unconscious, having slipped off his ladder and slammed his head against the bell. When the officer was asked the identity of the man he replied: I don't know, but his face rings a bell.

You'r funny.....thanks for the laugh!

SFV2VTA writes:

People drive by them at 60+ MPH, If they were plastic spray painted brass no one would notice. I would love to know who green lit the cost. Also what world they live in that they dont know the nation has a sprap metal theft plauge. In NYC people steal man hole covers.

VintageRacer writes:

in response to IsthisAmerica:

Very Interesting that the thief can take them without any CHP stopping them. They appear in plan site on a area of freeway that is well traveled.

That goes to show you we have very little coverage of CHP's in our area, that is why we have huge trucks going down side streets at night like 12:00 midnight.

Lack of Law Enforcement. Where are these Cops?

I never see any of them on the freeway even when there is a bad accident?

"Very Interesting that the thief can take them without any CHP stopping them. They appear in plan site on a area of freeway that is well traveled."

The CHP doesn't sit at these sites waiting to see what happens. They have to travel many miles of the freeway as well as other roads under their jurisdiction. They can't be everywhere at the same time.

"That goes to show you we have very little coverage of CHP's in our area, that is why we have huge trucks going down side streets at night like 12:00 midnight."

The CHP has a specific grid plan and a number of officers that patrol that area. The CHP does not patrol residential and city streets. That is the responsibility of the police and/or sheriff departments.

"Lack of Law Enforcement. Where are these Cops?"

This makes as much sense as your claim that there are pirates off Rincon beach.

"I never see any of them on the freeway even when there is a bad accident?"

Is this a question or a statement? If you see an accident, call 9-1-1 and report it. A CHP unit will be dispatched. In all likelihood, a CHP unit is responding as you are seeing the accident.

BobOzza writes:

in response to horsespinner#218774:

it would be nice if they put them on the El Camino Real. That would be 118 to you non hispanics. Hwy 118 runs from mission San Buenaventura to the Whittier Narrows, the original home of mission San Gabriel Arcángel via arroyo Seco and Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana

Me thinks you flunked your CA Mission studies in third grade.

Here’s a link to refresh your memory.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Camin...(California)

The 118 freeway was never thought of, until the 1960’s by CAL TRANS, not the Ca Missions.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Californ...

Enjoy the history lesson.

BlackBiscuit writes:

Why would someone steal a replica concrete bell?
I am sure the bells that were stolen have to be the brass or what ever metal. And what recycling center is going to accept it?
This is just crazy! May be just a prank/dare.
I was born here in Cali, and I think the bells are cool and significant.

venturakevin writes:

in response to Absolem:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You try to find someone to make an 18-inch wide 85-pound custom bell and install it for less than that. Good luck. Seems to me you were just looking for a reason to let loose with a right-wing rant.

diditright writes:

in response to venturakevin:

You try to find someone to make an 18-inch wide 85-pound custom bell and install it for less than that. Good luck. Seems to me you were just looking for a reason to let loose with a right-wing rant.

Venturakevin

Regardless of whether it is right wing or left wing politics, do you think making 18 inch wide 85 pound custom bells for $2700 or $2800 each and installing them alongside a freeway only to have them, according to the article, regularly stolen and then not reporting them as stolen is a good use of taxpayer money?

cjr writes:

Personally I like the idea of making them out of verdigris colored plastic. Going by at 75 mph you can't tell the difference and the scrap value is considerably less than a brass bell. The cost, once the die is created would be considerably less than $2700. And as all the greenies like to point out, plastic is forever.

pilgrim2014#403694 writes:

I'm for using different materials also. But if you really can't get it done for less than 2700 a unit, please make it 2900 and install some security. It really comes off as wasteful to replace without security considering there is an expectation of future theft.

brando writes:

will be seeing them bells soon on Auction Hunts show or what ever its called.

126west writes:

in response to BobOzza:

Me thinks you flunked your CA Mission studies in third grade.

Here’s a link to refresh your memory.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Camin...(California)

The 118 freeway was never thought of, until the 1960’s by CAL TRANS, not the Ca Missions.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Californ...

Enjoy the history lesson.

State history is taught in 4th Grade, so you are pretty close.

diditright writes:

in response to cjr:

Personally I like the idea of making them out of verdigris colored plastic. Going by at 75 mph you can't tell the difference and the scrap value is considerably less than a brass bell. The cost, once the die is created would be considerably less than $2700. And as all the greenies like to point out, plastic is forever.

I travel the 101 frequently, and I just can't tell people enough how much enjoyment I get out of gazing at the bells as I move along at 65 mph. Unlike "cjr" I don't speed. It is very relaxing and provides an almost "zen" like feeling just looking and admiring the bells. So much more refreshing than staring at the gray asphalt and those stupid dotted lane markers, or worse yet slow moving trucks and those daredevil motorcycle riders zipping in and out of traffic. I applaud the diligent Caltrans workers taking their valuable time to feverishly replace the constantly stolen bells. Their dedication is amazing! Our friends from out of state visit and they just marvel at the workmanship of the bells and the installation technology - just imagine, hanging from poles! Maybe we could set up booths along the freeway for people to stop and donate money to keep replacing the stolen bells. You know, something like "For whom the bells toll".

inspectress writes:

in response to diditright:

I travel the 101 frequently, and I just can't tell people enough how much enjoyment I get out of gazing at the bells as I move along at 65 mph. Unlike "cjr" I don't speed. It is very relaxing and provides an almost "zen" like feeling just looking and admiring the bells. So much more refreshing than staring at the gray asphalt and those stupid dotted lane markers, or worse yet slow moving trucks and those daredevil motorcycle riders zipping in and out of traffic. I applaud the diligent Caltrans workers taking their valuable time to feverishly replace the constantly stolen bells. Their dedication is amazing! Our friends from out of state visit and they just marvel at the workmanship of the bells and the installation technology - just imagine, hanging from poles! Maybe we could set up booths along the freeway for people to stop and donate money to keep replacing the stolen bells. You know, something like "For whom the bells toll".

I really enjoyed reading this post. It was amusing and made me chuckle, I needed that.

Tico writes:

Now I see why they disabled comments.....

waddy1 writes:

in response to BobOzza:

Me thinks you flunked your CA Mission studies in third grade.

Here’s a link to refresh your memory.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Camin...(California)

The 118 freeway was never thought of, until the 1960’s by CAL TRANS, not the Ca Missions.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Californ...

Enjoy the history lesson.

CA 118 was there long before it became the freeway.

VintageRacer writes:

in response to The_Artist_Formerly_Known_As:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Boy, you blame illegal aliens in every post you make. You need professional help

smithjc#403367 writes:

in response to diditright:

I travel the 101 frequently, and I just can't tell people enough how much enjoyment I get out of gazing at the bells as I move along at 65 mph. Unlike "cjr" I don't speed. It is very relaxing and provides an almost "zen" like feeling just looking and admiring the bells. So much more refreshing than staring at the gray asphalt and those stupid dotted lane markers, or worse yet slow moving trucks and those daredevil motorcycle riders zipping in and out of traffic. I applaud the diligent Caltrans workers taking their valuable time to feverishly replace the constantly stolen bells. Their dedication is amazing! Our friends from out of state visit and they just marvel at the workmanship of the bells and the installation technology - just imagine, hanging from poles! Maybe we could set up booths along the freeway for people to stop and donate money to keep replacing the stolen bells. You know, something like "For whom the bells toll".

ummm, shouldn't you be watching the road and the traffic instead of the bells?

diditright writes:

in response to smithjc#403367:

ummm, shouldn't you be watching the road and the traffic instead of the bells?

No, I just listen for the sound and ringing of the bells to keep me headed in the right direction.

TheCrusader writes:

in response to Absolem:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

$2800 a pop? Are you kidding? This is why California in in the toilet - no doubt this was probably a no-bid contract handed to some non-union foundry that greased the wheels of someone's campaign in the tea party. When I was in school, we learned morality in the course of our education. Sadly, with the republican jack-boots on the necks of the taxpayers and their eyes on lush CEO compensation and guaranteed job protections, no such transfer of morals takes place anymore. It's all about a "give it all to the top 1% and keep the GOP sheep in the dark" concept that does not exist in reality - only in the minds of conservative facists like our Phony Tony and our Liar-In Chief to be Romney the RINO. The thieves probably got tired of waiting for that trickle down that Bush promised.

northwestprincess writes:

~~~one more reason to vote NO in November for moonbeams latest tax increases. It is way past time to stop the addictive habit of government waste. Recession time is no time to be buying toy bells for $2800 a pop! If these bells are so important, put it out to charity, let people "adopt" a bell by paying for one and having their name under it. There are plenty of people out there who pay to get their names printed on a sign, i.e. the adopt a highway signs with names of people who "donate" to clean a mile of freeway ~~~

diditright writes:

in response to northwestprincess:

~~~one more reason to vote NO in November for moonbeams latest tax increases. It is way past time to stop the addictive habit of government waste. Recession time is no time to be buying toy bells for $2800 a pop! If these bells are so important, put it out to charity, let people "adopt" a bell by paying for one and having their name under it. There are plenty of people out there who pay to get their names printed on a sign, i.e. the adopt a highway signs with names of people who "donate" to clean a mile of freeway ~~~

Just "one bell of an idea".

pilgrim2014#403694 writes:

in response to The_Artist_Formerly_Known_As:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Well do you want to live in a capitalist/free market driven economy or not? Illegal aliens = cheap labor. Cheap labor = more profits. More profits = happy shareholders. Happy shareholders = whine and complain about the damn illegal aliens ruining everything. You can't have it both ways contrary to what the talking heads would have you believe. Ohh look pretty bells.

horsespinner#218774 writes:

in response to waddy1:

CA 118 was there long before it became the freeway.

Thanks Werner. 118 follows the original road. You can still see the original parts of the El Camino Real. You can walk the same road bed and kick up the same dust as Frey Juipera Serra & Frey Lassen.

bikey1 writes:

in response to Fanbelt:

In one case a man was found unconscious, having slipped off his ladder and slammed his head against the bell. When the officer was asked the identity of the man he replied: I don't know, but his face rings a bell.

*rimshot*

Poplicola writes:

in response to Absolem:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

actually it was the same California company that makes the originals

check them out:
http://www.californiabell.com/

local_dude writes:

People are lame sometimes. Boo.

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