Baltimore's mayor has ordered a police crackdown on scrap dealers who buy stolen metal stripped from vacant houses, saying the practice has reached "epidemic proportions" and is causing poor residents to suffer.
In a strongly worded letter sent last month to 13 dealers across the city, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said he has asked the police chief to investigate scrap dealers and bring lawbreakers to justice.
nTC "This theft is affecting the well-being of the housing stock in the city," the March 23 letter says. "This matter has caused great pain and suffering to people, especially in low-income housing because of faulty water pipes and wiring."
The mayor's spokesman said the letter was sent to every known scrap dealer in the city.
Mr. Schmoke said Thursday the main problem is thefts from vacant buildings.
"These people are literally stripping these vacant buildings . . . We even had a couple of reports of furnaces being taken out of these vacant houses," he said. "It just serves as a disincentive for people to fix up properties, and we want to make sure that we're doing what we can."