Arrest made in case of stolen iron gates at Battle Acre Park
Wednesday, 20 August 2014 14:07

 

George Elias Sotirakis was arrested and charged with theft from $10,000 to under $100,000 in the theft of the Battle Acre Park gates.

Olszewskis and Ed Hale reach out to local business

 by Ben Boehl

    An arrest has been made in connection with the theft of the historic iron gates at Battle Acre Park.
    Baltimore County police reported last week that George Elias Sotirakis, 34, of the 2500 block of W. Woodwell Road was charged with theft from $10,000 to under $100,000 and was later released on $50,000 bail.
    Baltimore County police reported that the theft of the historic wrought-iron pedestrian gates at the War of 1812 historical site happened between June 25 and June 30.
    According to Jay Doyle of the Baltimore County Department of Planning,  the large gates were taken away for cleaning, but the pedestrian gates were left at the scene and were later stolen.         Police stated that Sotirakis was identified as a suspect through surveillance video, information from local scrap yards, and other investigative methods.
    There was widespread reaction in the Dundalk community when Sotirakis’ arrest was announced.
    John Long, who has been heavily
promoting the search for the 100-year-old gates along with his Clean Bread and Cheese Creek group, was unhappy to hear that Sotirakis would “sell out” the community’s history and even speculated  about Sotirakis’ origins.
    “I don’t believe he was born here, so I don’t think the American heritage meant as much to him,” Long said.
    Police say they believe the gates were scrapped. The gates were estimated to have a replacement value of about $4,000 but an estimated actual value of $10,000 due to their historic nature.
    Long told The Eagle he has been working with police and said Sotirakis allegedly cut up the gates so they would not be recognizable when he tried to sell them to local scrap yards.
    Long explained that a person would have to spend a lot of time trying to carve up the metal, which he estimated to be worth around $25 to $30 as scrap.
    Cpl. John Wachter, spokesperson for Baltimore County Police Department, could not confirm whether the suspect cut up the gates.
    “Our investigation has only determined that the gates were scrapped. What we don’t know for sure is if the suspect cut them up or scrapped them whole,”  Wachter said.
    Long said he wants to replace the gates, but acknowledges that it will be expensive.
    “We have obtained an estimate from a blacksmith who specializes in historical wrought iron replacement, and the cost to recreate both gates as historically accurately as possible, ship and install them will be $6,000,” Long said.
    In order to fund the replacement of the gates, Long is holding an online fundraiser at www.gofundme.com/d2o5i0, where donations can be made.             Long said that a blacksmith will be able to handcraft the gates, but the process will take too long for the gates to be ready by the War of 1812 Bicentennial Celebration next month.
    “Unfortunately, it will not be done by [Sept. 12] ,” Long lamented.
    However, county government spokeswoman Ellen Kobler contacted The Eagle on Monday afternoon to announce that Councilman John Olszewski, Sr. and Del. John Olszewski Jr. reached out to local businessman Ed Hale, who contacted Canton Ornamental Iron Works.
    According to Kobler, Canton Ornamental will replace the two original pedestrian gates.
    Del. Olszewski confirmed Hale and  Canton Ornamental’s involvement and he said  he is hopeful the gates will be finished in advance of the bicentennial celebrations.
    “In Dundalk, we look out for and take care of each other. When we encounter a setback, we come together and figure a solution,” he said. “This is another example of the community doing just that.”
    Long responded that he appreciates the effort by Canton Ornamental, but said that the gates need to be authentic and need to be handcrafted by a blacksmith or the Battle Acre site could lose its historical funding.
    “I know everyone wants it done by Sept. 12, but sometimes it is better to wait and do it right,” Long said.