Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Risky Business

When I mention that title, images of the world savvy Rebecca De Mornay and the clueless Tom Cruise springs to mind. Along with the water rushing out of the Porsche 911 as the Porsche dealership guy intones 'Who's the U-boat commander?' Which leads us to the lead segment of this article: Chicago.

Not only are thieves gutting empty homes for the copper piping, but it seems cars are a target also. Namely the catalytic converters. Thieves are hitting cars parked in Chicago Transit lots. In ten minutes they can drive off with $500 in catalytic converters. Strangely CTA Security has not caught anyone, just captured some on video.

Not all scrap thieves are savvy as the above crew is. Take Alton, IL where thieves carted off 7 107lb cast iron storm grates. My biggest question is, the street where these grates were stolen are in front of businesses. Mean to tell me in the wee hours when it apparently happened, there were no police patrolling? Perhaps it was called in, but like the residents of Sayler Park discovered; scrap metal theft is not a high priority - even when the thieves are going into people's yards for the stuff.

For audacious theft of scrap metal, we can look north to our neighboring country Canada. In Essex County, the thieves literally hauled away tonnes of scrap metal from an abandoned commercial building in the form of a conveyor belt, I-beams, and 60 24-ft trusses. Just think if that building had collapsed while people were there? Be poetic justice if it had fallen on the thieves, but the building still stood. Unlike a case in Denver where some rocket scientist type thieves had the building collapse on them as they tore it down. The thieves managed to escape as rescue crews found no one buried in the rubble. We can hope the scare and the arrest of three of them might cause them to go straight. But if what the Marines are dealing with at Twenty-Nine Palms and other military bases are any indication, their greed outweighs any lick of common sense. At military bases, scrap metal thieves have always been a problem even with unexploded ordinance littering some of the ranges. With the rise in metal prices, the thieves are becoming even more bold. Take the case of a fool spotted by air zipping along an exercise area during a Marine exercise. He aimed his pickup directly at a Marine in his attempt to escape, the Marine fired five rounds. The truck flipped over and the thug now faces attempted murder charges. He also caused the exercise to be terminated.

Now to the fun part, what can be done? Local politicians are starting to tackle the matter. Like Ohio state Representative David Daniels. They have in the bill hopper Senate Bill 171 aimed at curtailing these crimes by requiring any seller of scrap to be able to present identification and for buyers of scrap to refuse scrap offered to them by people on a list as compiled by the police. Unfortunately this does not do enough since this proposed bill would only make it a first degree misdemeanor offense. But it is a first step so I will applaud them for that. Though when $1billion in copper is stolen each year, more serious attention needs to be focused on the problem before more people are killed when buildings collapse or when that scrap shell stolen from the artillery range blows up.

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