The NYT ran a story about utility pole theft in Baltimore a few days ago, which shot up the most-emailed rankings for a few days. The practice of selling metal to scrap dealers is familiar enough to viewers of The Wire, but I wasn't clear on the dollar figures involved.
Each pole weighs about 250 lbs, and aluminum goes for 35 cents/lb, which means the thieves are making a little under $90 per pole. 130 poles have been stolen, for a total benefit of about $11,375. Replacing a pole costs the city $156,000, for a total cost of $20,280,000. That's $32 per Baltimore resident, going by the Census Bureau's 2004 estimate of 636,251 souls.
It's easy to envision this continuing until the per-capita cost exceeds to the ~$90 value of a pole to the thieves. It's the least efficient crime I've ever heard of not featuring Ken Lay -- and at least Kenny Boy got more than .0006 cents on the dollar for what he stole. Why not at least hold the poles for ransom? 10:30AM «
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