Monday, November 28, 2005

Move over Detroit

Check out the latest in brazen crime in Baltimore:
Thieves are sawing down aluminum light poles. Some 130 have vanished from Baltimore's streets in the last several weeks, the authorities say, presumably sold for scrap metal. But so far the case of the pilfered poles has stumped the police, and left many local residents wondering just how someone manages to make off with what would seem to be a conspicuous street fixture.

The poles, which weigh about 250 pounds apiece, have been snatched during the day and in the middle of the night, from two-lane blacktop roads and from parkways with three lanes on either side of grass median strips, in poor areas and in some of the city's most affluent neighborhoods. Left behind are half-foot stubs of metal, with wires that carry 120 volts neatly tied and wrapped in black electric tape.

"It's a newfound phenomenon; I have to say we haven't seen this before," said David Brown, a spokesman for the city's transportation department . "Apparently, the culprits know what they're doing because we're talking about 30-foot poles here. It's not like you can stick one in a grocery cart and get rolling."
How about this?
"If the cops can't catch guys who're cutting down 30-foot poles, how are they going to crack a major drug gang?" said Chip Franklin, a talk-show host on WBAL Radio, a local news and talk station. "What's next? Someone taking a downtown building?"

But Lynn Smith, the manager at the Modern Junk and Salvage Company in Baltimore, said the thieves' quest for quick cash did not surprise her. "They find any way they can to get the metal and then the money in Baltimore," Ms. Smith said. "They don't care how they get it."

She added that she and other local dealers in scrap metal were "on alert" for sections of aluminum light poles and would not buy them. But, Ms. Smith suggested, thieves may be cutting the poles into pieces, then heading out of town to sell the scrap aluminum, which goes for about 35 cents a pound.

It will cost about $156,000 to replace each pole, the metal arms that extend over roads and the glass globes, city officials said.
250 lbs/pole * 0.35 $/lb
= $87.50 worth of aluminum as scrap, and that certainly isn't the only cost for the thieves. Surely thieves with enough talent to pull this off can make better money doing something else.

Such as reinstalling them for $156K or so a pop....

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