If this happened in Baghdad it wouldn’t surprise me. The fact that it is happening in Baltimore is pretty startling:
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.
“It’s a newfound phenomenon; I have to say we haven’t seen this before,” said David Brown, a spokesman for the city’s transportation department . “Apparently, the culprits know what they’re doing because we’re talking about 30-foot poles here. It’s not like you can stick one in a grocery cart and get rolling.”
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.
The missing poles have become yet another measure of the desperation in one of the country’s most violent cities. Last year, Baltimore, with a population about one-twelfth that of New York City’s, had a homicide rate more than five times as high.
An illegal drug trade fuels much of the violence. Health officials say 40,000 addicts live among Baltimore’s estimated 650,000 residents. For at least a decade, addicts who cash in scrap metal to pay for their next fix have been ripping metal pipes, radiators and wires out of vacant houses, and prying cast-iron security grates and downspouts from buildings.
But the audacity of the latest thefts has startled even law enforcement officials. “It definitely is brazen,” said Officer Nicole Monroe, a city police spokeswoman. “It surprises me that people would be so brazen as to do something like this.”
I’m still trying to figure out how they made Stonehenge, but this is ridiculous. One hundred and thirty stolen street lights? No suspects? Jesus.