Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Dumpster diving

Last week at our media briefing, I asked citizens who live in developing subdivisions to call us when they see suspicious activity around construction sites, like someone rummaging around in the roll-off dumpster, or headlights at night. We are trying to reduce the huge loss caused by thefts of copper, aluminum, and brass--which have become a tremendous target of theft worldwide as the prices of these materials has risen. The losses last year totaled nearly $200,000 in Lincoln. Several new homes and businesses were stripped of all their copper plumbing and even brand-new water meters!

Yesterday, I had a phone call from an unhappy camper who makes his living salvaging metals and other materials from construction sites. He's not very happy with me, because he says it is much more difficult to get permission from builders and contractors to rummage through the roll-offs. He thinks my emphasis on this has made the builders more likely to tell him to get lost when he asks if he can sort through their cast-off material. He feels he's not only making a living, but performing a public service by recycling materials that would otherwise be discarded.

I felt a little guilty--momentarily at least. But it seems to me that if he can't convince the builder that he's helping, that's not really my fault. I think contractors are constantly dealing with theft from construction sites. From the "neighbor" who just needs a couple 2x4's to the career criminal who steals tools, generators, compressors, and anything else that he can carry; builders and subs get sick and tired of trespassers who are costing them (and ultimately all of us) tons of money. I don't blame them for not wanting people around their site at all. If it were me, I'd salvage the recyclables myself, or contract with someone who would do the work and pay me a small fee for the privilege.

I hope citizens continue to call us when they see unusual activity around a construction site. We can always check it out, and see if the person has legitimate permission to be there. My message for the dumpster diver: Get permission, don't do it at night, and never when the crew isn't around. If you're contacted by an officer, you better have the name of the person who authorized you to be on the site, because we'll be checking.


David Meile said...

I think some of your comments reveal an insensitivity towards the homeless and working poor in Lincoln. My hunch is that you no longer are in personal contact with many homeless persons in the area who try to survive by scrounging for recyclables in the area. Your priorities seem curious to me.

Anonymous said...

David Meile:

Perhaps you missed the blog titled "And the Oscar goes to..."

Or perhaps missed the mention of "construction sites" three times or more in this one.

He isn't talking about your homeless or the working poor. He is speaking about thieves scouring construction sites and the problem it causes for many.

And as far as priorities, I am pretty sure this police chief is more in-touch with public issues than many others.

Anonymous said...

It's just trash.
If it's going to be thrown away who cares who ends up with it?
That's like prosecuting the "homefree" for digging in dumpsters for food.