A group of young professionals is looking for a catchy new slogan to cast a more positive light on our fine burg.
Here's one they probably won't pick:
"Modesto: Where even your safe isn't safe."
Scavengers recently managed to make off with a 6,000-pound steel, glass and concrete vault door frame from a demolition site in downtown Modesto.
This happened at the Parent Resource Center at 811 Fifth St., destroyed by fire in April. Earlier this month, a crew razed the old building, originally a bank, so construction on a new center can begin. Hence, the vanishing vault, which the crew left on a debris pile.
A longtime donor to the agency wanted the entire doorway and planned to pick it up the next day.
Fat chance. Someone beat him to it.
A theft? Sure. It was taken from private property.
To emphasize the magnitude of this epic feat, understand that a 3-ton vault door and frame isn't something a Dumpster diver is likely to find in an alley, toss into a pilfered Save Mart shopping cart and haul over to Tower Park or down to Dry Creek. Taking something that heavy required some powerful equipment.
At the very least, the episode offers a reminder that some people will steal just about anything that isn't nailed down, and theft isn't limited to objects with radial tires and grillework bearing a Honda or Toyota logo.
Just ask Gladys Wallis, the 99-year-old Modesto woman whose walker was stolen from her back porch in September. Or ask 83-year-old Clyde Lewis, a World War II and Korean War veteran whose three-wheeled bicycle disappeared from his porch, and on Veterans Day at that. Responding to a tip, Lewis found the bike at a house about a mile away four days later.
For pure entertainment value, the vault caper probably won't top the couple who squatted atop the United Way building this past summer. They redirected the air conditioning outside to cool themselves and put their own lock on the telescopic rooftop ladder.
But it does rank ahead of a piece I wrote years ago about a rancher whose prize 1-ton bull vanished, only to be returned to his pasture right after the 21-day breeding cycle ended. Presumably, the rustler's cows got three weeks of free, well, attention.
The Parent Resource Center served more than 750 adults and 1,500 in the past fiscal year. The agency works with child protective services, helps parents become better parents, offers in-home visits, emergency food and diapers, and labor and delivery instruction.
The fire caused about $250,000 in structural damage, but the insurer's payout will leave the agency about $200,000 shy of what it will need to move into the rebuilt quarters. (That's one of the drawbacks of having "no-vault" insurance.)
In designing the new center, expected to open about a year from now, Executive Director Leah Silvestre decided the old vault took up space that could be put to better use. The donor wanted the vault door, which otherwise would have been scrapped.
"During the demolition, the crew carefully extracted it with a crane," she said. "It's a piece of history, but I don't think it's worth a lot of money."
One of the crew members joked about leaving it out in the open, Silvestre said.
"He said, 'That's not going anywhere,' " she said.
Think not? Think again. Apparently, where there's a winch, there's a way.
When they returned the next day, the vault door frame was gone. Nary a trace. Silvestre suspects they used perhaps a flatbed tow truck to haul it away.
"It was very classic, very heavy," she said.
But, hah! The joke's on them. They don't know the combination.
Someone affiliated with the center "is in hot pursuit," Silvestre said. "We're doing a little private investigation."
Still, don't count on a severe penalty for early withdrawal. The snatchers probably took it directly to any one of the city's bank vault door chop shops.
If nothing else, they gave the group of civic-minded citizens another suggestion for a new slogan, albeit not the upbeat kind needed to give the city's image a face-lift.
Somehow, I don't think "Modesto: Where even your safe isn't safe" will be a finalist.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at 578-2383 or firstname.lastname@example.org