According to the always awesome Universal Hub, Clifford Beckford, 34, figured out how to get inside the tower on the Leonard P. Zakim-Bunker Hill Bridge and steal the airplane warning beacon off the top of the bridge’s tower. And this wasn’t the first time.
Massachusetts State Police arrested Beckford at a relative’s home in nearby Melrose. As the Boston Marathon Bombing trial is in its second day, Beckford was initially investigated as a terrorist laying plans to destroy one of Boston’s most recent signature landmarks, “until police realized he just likes stealing the lights because he can.”
From the Massachusetts State Police:
The beacon is a large bubble-style light, with a red lens, about 18-inches in diameter at its base and approximately 3 feet tall. It weighs at least 60 lbs. The purpose of the beacons installed at the top of the Zakim towers are to allow aircraft to easily see the location of the towers. Because of the nature of the crime, troopers assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force became involved in the investigation. We have determined that Beckford was not attempting to commit a terrorist act, probe the bridge’s security system, or cause an aircraft to hit the tower. State Police are satisfied that the act of the theft itself was Beckford’s goal.
Beckford swiped the beacon on February 3 at around 9:00 pm.
Walked up a cantilever ramp to reach the bridge, defeated door locks to gain entry into the south tower, then climbed a ladder to the top of the inside of the tower, where he removed the beacon. Evidence further indicates that Beckford then descended the ladder while carrying the beacon, exited the tower, and placed the beacon on a snow bank next to Route 93. Beckford, who was parked nearby, then walked back to his car, drove to where he had placed the beacon, took it into his car, and drove off.
Following Beckford’s arrest last night, troopers developed information that the beacon may be at the Warren Tavern in Charlestown. Troopers went there and spoke to the manager, who was very cooperative and stated that, in fact, there was an object in the tavern’s cellar that fit the description. The investigation indicates that Beckford left the beacon outside the tavern at some point recently, and an employee who came across it later took it in without knowing what it was. All evidence indicates that neither the tavern nor its employees were complicit with the theft in any way.
Apparently, this wasn’t the first Beckford-boosted beacon. In 2000, when the bridge was under construction, a beacon had gone missing, but was apparently still thought to be in possession of the contractor. It had never been reported stolen, and was eventually left anonymously at the office of the Bostonian Society.
For reference, the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge was part of Boston’s Big Dig project that put the former Central Artery underground. The Zakim Bridge is a cable-stayed design where the cables run directly between the roadbed and the huge towers. Cable-stayed bridges were constructed in Europe after WWII, but they’re relatively uncommon in the United States.
The Zakim Bridge is unique because it has two lanes cantilevered outside the towers, while another eight lanes run underneath. The design is meant to echo two Boston landmarks: The nearby Bunker Hill Monument, and the white rigging on the USS Constitution, which is anchored within sight of the bridge.
The twin beacons on each tower are located 270 feet high.