It's like Wheel of Fortune in reverse. Somebody is stealing the giant metal vowels and consonants that spell out the names of two Laguna Niguel housing tracts.
In recent weeks, Chatelain Estates off Crown Valley Parkway and Niguel Road has become "Hate N Estates." And Stoney Pointe in Bear Brand was whittled down to "Toney Pointe" and, more recently, "Oney Pointe." (If the trend continues, it could soon be "One Pint").
Law enforcement isn't quite sure what to make of the thefts.
“The letters really have no street value,” said Chief of Laguna Niguel Police Services Lt. Andy Ferguson. “It’s probably just kids who are pulling pranks ... [but] I’m not sure what they would want with the letters, other than maybe they are the first [initials] of their names. Maybe they want to hang them in their bedrooms?”
At Stoney Pointe, the alphabet bandits swiped a bronze "S" in late May and a "T" on June 15. Purloined letters are nothing new at the tract, according to one homeowners association board member, who cited three or four similar incidents over the last five years. Replacing a letter costs $200, the source said.
Over on Crown Valley Parkway, at Chatelain Estates, the entrance has several signs bearing the gated community’s name. The one that faces the main thoroughfare has lost four letters, leaving passersby to scratch their heads over what's left: “Hate N Estates.”
Lt. Ferguson said he hasn't heard of any other housing tracts being targeted -- yet. But if his theory about prankster kids is correct, more innocent letters could soon be kidnapped, he said. “They are out of school and it's summer, so we’ll probably see more of this going on.”
What do you think about these modern-day purloined letters? Tell us in the comments.