Cracking Down On Copper Thieves

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - March 26, 2008

It’s like a money field along the H-2. It’s almost as if the ripoff artists have discovered their little personal ATM. When you run out of cash, you get some more copper wire. Easy.

How in the world are thieves so successful at ripping off copper wire alongside one of the busiest freeways on Oahu? Despite all the assurances that this criminal activity is a priority with law enforcement and lawmakers, clearly we are losing the battle.

I am curious as to how these thieves are able to get away with such things in the open. Talk about chutzpah. Cars whizzing by. Trucks passing just feet away. And how about HPD? I would imagine a cruiser would go past once and awhile. Despite all these potential eyes and ears, these thieves are getting away with hundreds of thousands of dollars of your tax money, not to mention creating hazardous, dark highways.

The Legislature passed more stringent laws regarding copper wire theft, but simply passing a law doesn’t mean problem solved. Let’s see, of all the incidents of copper wire theft, how many actual arrests have there been? One? Two? With the stricter laws against buying stolen copper wire, there have been how many arrests? One? I can only think of the fence who operated on Dillingham Boulevard. However, recent copper thievery has been frequent.

One would think there would be a more creative approach in busting these guys. How about increased patrols? You mean to tell me that a city budget that has increased expenditures dramatically over the past five years cannot dedicate more resources to its No. 1 responsibility - public safety? We can commit to a rail project that will cost billions of dollars but we don’t have the wherewithal to adequately finance a stronger, more-effective police force? That’s a question you should ask your elected city officials.

What about a distinguishable and unique visual ID for crews working on power lines? Authorized DOT employees should have an obvious uniform while working on the roadside. If law enforcement or private citizens see someone climbing poles or pulling cable without the proper outfit, then the call to HPD is made.

We live in a technological age. I would imaging security cameras strategically and covertly placed would provide a pretty good partner in fighting this scourge. They are used to fight crime in Chinatown. Think how much we would save if we thwart just one thief.

Lastly, to stop this illegal activity, you’ve gotta stop the flow of money. There can’t be that many dealers in scrap wire. The sting on the Dillingham Boulevard recycler went well. This investigative strategy must be be undertaken more aggressively. This would be a perfect opportunity for the executive branches of the city and the state to work in tandem to quell this criminal activity before the entire island goes dark.

The state DOT and city HPD have a shared interest in resolving what is rapidly becoming an embarrassing situation. It would make sense for both sides to put differences on hold and put an end to a crime that is stoppable.

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