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#166041 07/11/07 02:59 AM
Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 101
jraef Offline OP
Being that the other thread on this subject is locked, I thought I'd toss out an idea that may serve to reduce the wire thefts going on. I for one plan to push my lawmakers for something along these lines. Maybe with enough pressure it can get some attention.

First, my opinion is that because of the potential for loss of life, limb and property from removing ground wires etc., the crime needs to be classified as a public safety issue. "Reckless and Negligent Indifference" is a legal term that can be applied to manslaughter if someone gets killed, and that potential definitely exists in this situation.

But aside from increasing the classification of the crime beyond petty theft, we can also address the motivations behind the acts by eliminating the financial gain. I know that in some areas the local police are trying to crack down on scrap yards, but that isn't enough because the scrappers are not going to be police agents. Instead, we can use a voucher type of system where if anyone brings in copper for recycling, they CANNOT get cash for that metal. Instead, they get a voucher from the State stating the weight and value on the day they brought it in. The scrapyard then puts the money into an escrow-like account with the State, administered like the contractors bonds are. 4 weeks AFTER that, the money is mailed to the person who brought in the scraps. In the mean time, their names and a description of what they brought in are compared to theft reports for matches. If there is a match, the perps get a visit from the gendarmes. If there is no match, they get their money. Since I would bet that a majority of copper thieves are opportunists and/or addicts looking for a fix, having to wait for the money defeats the purpose.

Last edited by jraef; 07/11/07 03:01 AM.

Joined: May 2003
Posts: 2,876
e57 Offline
Well in SF proper, I have not heard of any of the big stories about copper theft - not saying it doesn't happen though. (E.Bay different story...)

SF has also dealt with some of the most accessible copper some time ago - long before these more recent spats. Although not written in the code perse ALL GEC's exposed at street level or property frontage have been deemed 'subject to physical damage' for ~15 years, and required to be in conduit. (Sometimes if rear or side of the building is accessible from the street too - ticks off out of town guys who find out the hard way...) From what I understand plumbing inspectors have also required simular encasement in some neighborhoods as well.

The thinking there is that they don't know whats in the pipe, and it's harder to cut... Seems to work???

They also can't steal it from your site if it's not there - maybe Chicago has the answer - don't pull until the job is buttoned up?

Either way, You and I will have less to worry about soon. 3rd Street and Pac Hell areas are being gentrified and all of the scrap yards and junk yards are being pushed out for condos and Stem-cell reasearch facilities - along with the lower end of the criminal spectrum that would do this sort of thing. (For those not familiar with the area - competition for scrap metal is at the shopping cart dwelling level here and far beneath the live-in-a-building crowd. Bigger better things to steal for them.) And as this type of thing seems to center around isolated or vacant buildings we soon wont have many of those either...

I used to live and work near the Design Center right near where the BFI scrap facility was until 4-5 years ago before they got the boot. For a while there was no place nearby to take scrap metal or cans/bottles - all the "trolls" stopped picking anything up for a while until another facility reopened further down 16th - otherwise it was too much effort to take it across a bridge, especially if you don't own a car. After realizing the need and success of that scrap joint, another opened on 3rd. Both are doomed to be leveled soon. The big scrap yards south of Bayshore are being rezoned out of existance as we speak. No place to sell it - why pick it up or steal it? After that the only nearby places to take it will be Oakland... (Soon to be $5 toll and gas money 30 miles and 1-2 hours depending on traffic...)

Or you need to take it to the dump and recycle it and might even have to pay to do so. 'SF Scavenger' our trash collection service contracted to the city actually subsidizes the recyling of all the other mandatory stuff by reselling scrap from dumpsters and general trash. Mandatory 80% construction debris recycling by decree from the city gets paid for by the money they DONT give out to 'scrappers'. They actually pay people to sort out debris dumpsters!!! So maybe after the scrap yards are gone my trash bill gets lower??? wink

Mark Heller
"Well - I oughta....." -Jackie Gleason
Joined: Jan 2005
Posts: 5,349
Likes: 1
Cat Servant
"Self government can't work without self control."

There is an empty building near me. I don't know who owns it ... but I'm pretty sure it's not mine, so I leave it be.
Others have a different attitude. "No one's looking... so it must be mine for the taking." There lies the crux of the problem.

Education pays a role, only to the extents that:
A) I can see how the loss suffered by another impacts me; and,
B) Enforcement agencies see the harm, danger, and inconvenience such actions cause.

Even at it's most 'harmless' level, this is a 'quality of life' crime, one which, like littering or graffiti, seems to encourage more serious crimes. This idea was verified when NYC acted to clean up Times' Square.

It's never just petty theft. prosecutors and law enforcement have an entire arsenal of tools to use, if they wish. Theft, trespass, criminal damage to property are among the charges that may be brought. Any secondary damages ... for example, if the disabling of a stop-light leads to an accident .... can also be charged to the thief.

Finally, there is no denying that the scrap yard can make a difference.
Forget about the ID requirement ... once you're out the door, there is no link between you and the material. That ID requirement is there strictly for tax / accounting purposes.
Yet, the scrap dealer KNOWS his business. Of that there can be no doubt. If he wished to do so, he could either refuse a purchase .. or call the cops, when a suspicious product is offered. In Reno, certain scrapyards have done just that - resulting in several convictions.
As an example ... PoCo cable is rather unique. Naturally, the cable loss usually results in a power interruption, or worse (here wildfires are common). It's not that hard to associate a length of cable with last nights' power outage. If the scrap dealer acts, the crime is solved. If he plays dumb, and just tosses it in the pile .... all is lost.

Joined: Oct 2002
Posts: 482
The problem, as eluded to in previous posts, is not that laws are not there. Theft, of any caliber, is a crime, period. It should be punished or, better yet, prevented.

The problem is a lack of motivation of the authorities to pursue and punish such crime. I think JRAEF has the right idea to make a stink about it - the squeeky wheel gets the grease, as it were.

News reports are getting more and more common about this problem, but lawmakers are hesitant to act on anything that people are not screaming in there ear about. If we all write a letter, maybe it'll light a fire under their collective bottoms.

I'm drafting mine this week...

Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 9,745
Likes: 13
I like the idea of video taping all scrap transactions and requiring ID before you get money.

Greg Fretwell
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,391
Moderator's an electrical forum not a 'fix society's problems forum'.

Bob Badger
Construction & Maintenance Electrician
Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 806
Quote's an electrical forum not a 'fix society's problems forum'.

Ummmmm.... at the risk of inciting some tension here, I respectfully must agree and disagree with that statement at the same time.

Yes, this is an electrical forum, and to be sure the forum is not a political one and all the mods have done a great job at keeping "inflammatory topics" out of here....

But; the main gist of the topic here is one of wire thefts, with the resultant loss of revenue and costs for the companies involved, and more importantly the serious safety issues associated with the crime. IMHO relevant points of discussion, within the scope of the "General Discussion Area." And some of the solutions discussed have seemed to be lucid, and not meant to be disrespectful at all.

So as long as the discussions remain tactful and carefully worded, I feel it should be allowed to continue.

And if one wishes to make a point about society's ills, the biggest one seems to be the reluctance to allow potentially controversial this topic can very well be. But would you not agree that a far greater disservice would be to simply close out this topic because it can have some "volatile" issues discussed?

Again, the vast majority of folks here are capable of carrying this topic on without going too far... and the mods are great about stepping in when necessary.

But would it be necessary in this case? smile

No matter what the outcome, I'm glad we can have our say with a great deal of freedom here. smile

Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,391
Originally Posted by mxslick
But; the main gist of the topic here is one of wire thefts, with the resultant loss of revenue and costs for the companies involved, and more importantly the serious safety issues associated with the crime. could be confined to those issues.

Do you see any of that being addressed in the above posts or do you see peoples opinions about what the reasons are for the thefts?

I am not trying to say that each of us is not fully entitled to their opinions or that they should not express them.

I do question if this is the right place for those opinions......which of course is just my opinion. smile

Bob Badger
Construction & Maintenance Electrician
Joined: May 2005
Posts: 984
Likes: 1
I have a feeling that if I walked into a recycling center with gold jewelry or gold bullion I'd get different reactions; and 1 of them would likely involve the police.

How about having the recyclers and scrapyards only accepting wire from licensed contractors?

Stealing wouldn't be any fun if you couldn't fence the goods.

Joined: Nov 2006
Posts: 348
ITO Offline
This site also calls itself an "Electrical Contractors Network" yet many people who post here are not contractors.

The name of the forum is "General Discussion Area" complete with a joke thread, notice of national hot dog month, giving up smoking, and dirt bikes and other non-electrical related threads.

They are your forums run them how you want, but at least be consistent about it and lock or delete all the other off topic threads while you are at it.

Just my 2-cents: wire theft and associated laws are Electrical Contractor's issues, and are right on topic, and one of the reasons I come here.

If want to pick and choose what we talk about please keep in mind people like me don't come here for the joke thread.

Last edited by ITO; 07/12/07 11:00 AM.

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