To catch a thief

November 18, 2005

If Baltimore police put out an all-points bulletin on the latest urban vandals, it might read something like this: Calling all cars, calling all cars, polenapper on the loose. Beware, perpetrator may be armed (with a buzz saw) and dangerous - the stolen light poles are 250 pounds of hot-wired aluminum.

When more than 130 street light poles disappear, scrap metal thieves have hit new heights.

This is not your average mailbox prank. Utility poles have to be cut or knocked down, and their 120-volt electrical insides dismantled. How does a utility pole get hauled away without anyone noticing? This was a professional job.

At $750 a pole, the city can't afford to let this mischief go unchecked. Since the light-jackers first hit in early October, transportation officials say they have had to replace 29 poles at a total cost, installation included, of about $40,000. Citizens should be alert to the possibility that the thieves may be disguised as utility crews; they should report any suspicious activity immediately. Police should pay a visit to scrap metal dealers in the metropolitan area and Washington to determine if the stolen utility poles are being sold and recycled elsewhere.

And, if traditional crime-fighting techniques don't prevail, City Hall should put its latest crime-stoppers on the case - talking surveillance cameras. Officials should install the cameras within earshot of the vulnerable targets. Not only would the cameras, equipped with motion sensors, catch a thief in the act, they would send a chilling message to anyone contemplating a heist: Smile, you're on Candid Camera .

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.