Monday, November 28, 2005

How to tell when your city is really F***ed.

What is a sign that your city is truly screwed?  When junkies start stealing the street light poles.

Baltimore -- Given that they stand some 30 feet tall, their disappearance is attracting a good deal of attention here -- even as their final destination remains a mystery.

Thieves are sawing down aluminum light poles. Some 130 have vanished from Baltimore's streets in the last several weeks, 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.

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.
The article states aluminum scrap is worth like 35 cents a pound (which seems low, frankly) these mutts are raking in a big $87 a pole.  More likely the scrap guy gives them $25 bucks if they are lucky.  Hardly seems worth it, given the amount of work involved. 
It will cost about $156,000 to replace each pole, the metal arms that extend over roads and the glass globes, city officials said.
One hundred and fifty six thousand bucks for a street light?  Bad writing! Maybe for all of them, that'd be $1,200 each, I can believe that.  I'd guess there's quite a few aluminum street signs missing too.

At any rate, the great city of Baltimore is being dismantled for crack money.  This would seem to indicate a couple of things.  First, the Baltimore cops are not patrolling, they are sitting in the cop car at the donut shop.  Second, there is some scrap dealer out there getting his aluminum really cheap from the junkies and he's not afraid of being caught.  Because the cops never leave the donut shop, would be my guess.

The Phantom

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