Hey, man my folks are just cable thieves

DAN RODRICKS

December 03, 1992|By DAN RODRICKS

Six kids in Baltimore and Howard counties snitched on thei parents because they were getting cable television service illegally. Does this represent hope for humanity or the death of the family?

Personally, I think it's evidence of the Bart Simpsonization of America. Let's face it: If Bart knew that Homer was getting illicit cable and that the cable cops were coming, he'd turn Dad in. Or extort hush money from him.

We don't know if any little Barts or Bartettes forced their parents to pay hush money. And frankly, folks, we may never know.

But, in at least six instances last spring, the young people of this great state apparently decided to help their parents help themselves to slightly more honest lives.

It happened during Comcast Cablevision's no-questions-asked amnesty program, which lasted for six weeks ending in May. Out of the 7,000 cable thieves in Baltimore and Howard counties who turned themselves in, half a dozen confessed after their kids reported them to the cable police.

So, folks, if you're taking the cable wire on the sly, watch out. You might be living with finks. They might call Comcast and name names.

Same is true with neighbors who don't like you. If you're stealing cable service, I wouldn't brag about it during the next neighborhood holly tour. I wouldn't rub it in the face of any of those fine Baltimore County subscribers who are paying, on average, $35 a month for service.

What goes around comes around. The guy who thinks you make too much noise putting out the trash might decide to spoil your good thing by dropping a dime -- make that a quarter -- and calling the cable cops.

That kind of thing happened frequently during last spring's amnesty program, according to David Nevins, spokesman for Comcast.

However, the overwhelming majority of cable crooks turned themselves in because they decided their theft of Comcast's signal was no longer worth the risk. Comcast warned them that when a new law took effect Oct. 1, they would face theft charges, fines, possible imprisonment, public humiliation and the scorn of grumpy neighbors who are paying cable fees they consider too high.

Those consequences remain for any other evildoers who still are stealing cable service, and Nevins says YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!

Comcast and local state's attorneys will be prosecuting you when they find you, and the new law makes a conviction easier than before. Prior to the new law, the cable companies had to catch you in the act of hooking up your homes or businesses. Now, once you're caught with free cable, you have to prove you didn't break the law to get it.

Rich or poor or middle class, from Pikesville to the Valley to Dundalk, cable thieves climb telephone poles. They break into cable boxes. They even manage to rig themselves up through the electrical boards in the circuit rooms of apartment complexes.

One such thief kept doing this in a Baltimore-area apartment building, according to Nevins. He managed to get inside the locked box that protected the cable board from intruders. He hooked up his apartment and the apartments of other residents, probably for a fee.

Comcast discovered the theft but, since it had not caught the culprit cable-handed, all the company could do was disconnect service. But the guy came back and reconnected his apartment. Comcast technicians came back and disconnected him.

Next time back, the thief hooked himself up, then pulled from the board all tags that identified cables by apartment. An act of sabotage! "That time, to disconnect him we had to disconnect everyone," said Nevins.

So Comcast notified all apartment dwellers that their service would be interrupted while the company went through the long process of relabeling each cable with its corresponding apartment, and then determining if each recipient was a Comcast customer.

Then, figuring that the persistent thief would return to the scene of the crime, Comcast hired a private detective to stake out the electrical room. From a truck, the gumshoe got some pictures of the thief in the act. Comcast is prosecuting. The case is pending.

Let this be a warning. The cable cops are coming! So, infidels, give yourselves up! Or at least be nice to your kids.

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