WHITE PLAINS, NY -- A Bronx man was arrested by Westchester County Police this week and charged with stealing close to 300 deep-cycle batteries from roadside Variable Message Signs that provide information and safety warnings to motorists.
Angel G. Velez, 26, of Baychester Avenue, Bronx, was charged with multiple felony counts of Grand Larceny 3rd Degree, Criminal Possession of Stolen Property and Criminal Mischief 2nd Degree in the thefts of about $60,000 worth of batteries. The batteries were stolen from the portable message signs owned by Westchester County, New York State and several private companies that do road construction projects in the county.
“Variable Message Signs are placed along roadways to warn truckers about low bridges and warn motorists about traffic delays or safety hazards that they will encounter along their route. These battery thefts knocked many Variable Message Signs out of service, preventing messages from being displayed and posing a threat to the safety of the motoring public,” Public Safety Commissioner George N. Longworth said.
Velez is believed to have received more than $20,000 by selling stolen batteries for their lead content to recycling centers in the area. The batteries, which weigh between 55 and 96 pounds, cost about $200 each when newly purchased.
The investigation was conducted by Detective Dan Carfi of the county police General Investigations Unit after the county Department of Public Works/Transportation and a private contractor reported battery thefts several months ago. Carfi then determined that additional thefts of deep-cycle batteries were occurring from Variable Message Signs all around Westchester.
The thefts occurred along the Hutchinson River Parkway, Bronx River Parkway, Saw Mill River Parkway, Cross County Parkway, New York State Thruway and local roads as well as from a state DOT maintenance yard.
As a result of Carfi’s investigation, the New York State Police and New York City Police Department are now investigating whether Velez is responsible for similar thefts that have occurred in Rockland, Orange and Bronx counties.
Velez was booked at county police headquarters on Tuesday night and was held overnight pending arraignment Wednesday in multiple courts in Westchester, including Yonkers, New Rochelle, Greenburgh and Mount Vernon.
WCPD sent over photos of the batteries they collected from Mr. Velez.