Friday, November 25, 2005

Light-pole thievery in the ol' hometown

(Well, actually I grew up in Baltimore County. But it was close to the city! Anyway...) This article in the New York Times caught my attention: "Light Poles Are Vanishing, and Baltimore's Police Are Baffled":

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.

Things like this happen in Taiwan, also. Every time a typhoon is coming, someone discovers that some industrious thieves have stolen the steel water gates that are needed to help prevent flooding. But it's amazing to me the trouble the Baltimore thieves are going to to take these light poles. As the Times reports,
The culprits seem to have pole-snatching down to a model of precision and efficiency, city officials say. They appear to have gone so far as dressing up as utility crews, the police say, and placing orange traffic cones around the poles about to be felled, to avoid arousing suspicion among motorists.
(My question here is, if the police know that the thieves have done this, why haven't they caught anyone yet?)

(Thanks to MJ for the New York Times reference.)


senioritis said...

Fascinating. Questions unanswered: how much money do these people get for this scrap metal? And who would buy 130 utility poles?

Jonathan Benda said...

According to the article, the thieves cut the poles into smaller pieces and sell the metal to scrap metal dealers for about 35 cents/pound. But "Lynn Smith, the manager at the Modern Junk and Salvage Company in Baltimore", said that they'll probably have to sell them out of town now because local dealers won't buy them.