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Scrap Companies Make Profits From Community Theft

Scrap Companies Make Profits From Community Theft


In a recent meeting at the South Austin Coalition Community Council, seniors reported being the latest victims of scavengers.  These seniors reported that they face thousands of dollars in costs to replace the chain link and iron fencing that secured their property.  They were outraged at both the scavengers and the metal scrapping companies that pay for obvious stolen property.  “Something has to be done.  If they didn’t have anyone to sell to they would not take our property.  Someone needs to be accountable [like] the alderman, city or state.”

Some people asked why the alderman would allow another scrap metal company to open in the area.  They also wanted to know why Secretary of State Jesse White sold the state property for a company that takes from the residents in the community.

This community seems to have its share of Scrap Metal Yards to name a few; few too many.  Here is a list of westside yards: United Scrap, 1545 S. Cicero; J.B. Scrap Metal, 2910 W. Carroll; J R Scrap Metal, 4157 W. Kinzie St.; Marcel Metal, 4221 W. Ferdinand; Central Metal Recycling, 5618 W. Filmore.

The Windy City Word and South Austin Community Council have formed a committee to look into this issue.

Some reports and examples of incidents to describe just how bad the situation has become:
An entire block lost it electric copper wire to thieves at a cost of $2,000 each to replace the wire and get their electricity restored.

“The story behind the picture of the garbage can happened at DMI YOUth Can. The  janitor discovered one of the garbage cans missing, then he noticed a major pole in the fence was gone…  went over to the scrap mental company on Central and there was the garbage can in front of the sign (Central Metal Recycling) with the letters DMI painted on the front. Not only did they steal the pole, but used the garbage can to take it to the scrap yard.”

“One day as I was driving down Central.  I saw a very disturbing sight.  Two guys were pushing a shopping cart with a part of a fence on it and on the fence were two small bicycles chained and locked to the fence with pad locks. I wondered how hard it would be for the parents to replace two bicycles for their children.”
“There is a sign on the fence at the Central Metal Recycling place that says ‘we do not accept shopping carts.’  However, I have seen many shopping carts wheeled into the yard. They are gladly accepting stolen property. The city must have a shortage of garbage cans because on any given day you can find plenty around the scrap yards.”
In response to the recent surge of scavenger thefts, Chicago Heights has enforced increased licensing fees for people trading scrap metal and now requires the metal scrappers to keep records of where they received merchandise.  Maybe these as well as some other ordinances and practices are what Chicago needs to stem this rash of crime against our seniors and residents.

From catalytic converters to tree grates, from copper from air conditioning units to fire hydrant rings, and now fencing, and everything in between, scavengers are wreaking havoc on residents and endangering the lives of many.

This summer a fashion show was held at Murdock Hall, 5090 W. Harrison, and as the show was in progress, three guests lost their catalytic converters to thieves. This is common now for cars that have enough space for the thieves to roll under the vehicle and cut the converter off.
Law enforcement officials say thieves are targeting the parts for the metals. The thefts have picked up across the country in recent months, prompting car owners to look for ways to safeguard the parts.

Catalytic Converters are coated with platinum, rhodium and palladium, precious metals that have increased dramatically in price over the past few years. Scrap metal businesses pay up to $200 for catalytic converter units, which can be removed in less than 30 seconds with a reciprocating saw, according to law-enforcement personnel and other experts. Vehicles that sit higher off the ground, such as Honda Elements and other SUVs, are more likely targets.

Tree Grates, the decorative at the base of trees in the city are heavy — up to 175 pounds and they’re in plain view. But that’s not stopping thieves.  They’re lifting them, hauling them away and selling them for scrap, CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman reports.  The price tag for a very recent string of thefts was estimated at $40,000, and taxpayers are on the hook.
It’s in Ald. Scott Waguespack’s 32nd Ward, and he’s not happy about it. One of his volunteers, Steve Jensen, is frustrated that thieves would steal something that costs $2,000 each to get a relatively small amount. They speculate the thieves only netted about $1,200 for the string of grate thefts in Lakeview.
Also, each theft leaves a gaping hole that could be dangerous to pedestrians.


Fire Hydrant Rings

Call it a sign of the economic times: between 70 and 100 brass rings were stolen from fire hydrants in August and September of last year. Firefighters and water management officials state that the thefts could have led to loss of lives but that precautions have been taken to make that far less likely.
Thieves can sell the solid-brass rings for about $20 apiece, Barrett Murphy, first deputy commissioner of the Water Management Department, told aldermen at a hearing on the issue. The cast-iron caps that also are stolen get a mere 40 cents, he added. Those thefts could hamper firefighting, he said. “Yes, we can still function,” said Assistant Deputy Fire Commissioner John McNicholas, explaining that firefighters can go to the next hydrant or call in special trucks. “Yes, we are delayed.  But yes, it endangers lives and it could cause injuries.” To address the issue, water management officials now use more lead to secure the ring so they are far harder to pry from hydrants. And each fire truck in the city carries two spare rings — enough to outfit one hydrant in seconds to fight a fire.

A good idea for city council would be to take a look at passing some ordinances that would bring in revenue from higher license fees and fines for accepting stolen property.  Something must be done.

If you have a story of metal theft email it to The Windy City Word at or Call SACC 773-287-4570.

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