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EDITORIAL – Shall we scrap the business?

luigimarshall, [email protected]

EDITORIAL – Shall we scrap the business?

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URGENT?ACTION?MUST be taken against the resurgent activity of lawless people who are stealing power and copper cables.
Last Tuesday’s DAILY NATION carried the latest story of this criminality in which copper thieves struck again, and made off with cable estimated to weigh 690 pounds and worth $36 000 from the roof of Mall Internationale.
A similar theft of $16 000 worth of copper coils took place over a four-week period between June and early this month, while in May,
700 customers of LIME had their telephone services interrupted after thieves cut copper from the network at Cane Vale, Christ Church.
The sheer scale of the inconvenience and harm caused by this activity can be gauged from the delay now caused to a commercial contract involving handover of space at the Mall to several Government departments – which has now been postponed for four weeks while new cable is imported and installed.
Given the weight of the stolen cable and that the roof was 60 feet from ground level, some very careful planning must have been involved in this dastardly enterprise, and every effort has to be made to put an end to this organized nonsense before it becomes further embedded in our deviant landscape.
Some may argue that a shutdown of the scrap metal business or a ban on the sale of second-hand copper and wire may be draconian, but such a suggestion has been mooted by the government of Jamaica, where earlier this year, scrap metal dealers were given six months to stem the theft of, and illegal trade in, metals or face a ban on the trade.
A ban was imposed in April and theft went into decline, but it was lifted by a new minister, and now there are threats to reimpose the ban because thefts have resumed. Metal dealers met with the minister and they have been given one and a half weeks to return with workable proposals to regulate the trade and eliminate theft.
Legitimate enterprises such as the utility companies and sugar factories have suffered severely at the hands of these rascals, and last weekend more than 100 graves and vaults were desecrated in a search for scrap metal. One man was sentenced to a year in prison about three months ago, but thefts have continued.
Here at home, we must therefore ensure that we nip this practice in the bud since it has the potential to cause disruption on a wider scale if not stopped. Mr Bizzy Williams, whose companies have suffered the loss in two of these latest thefts, called for the authorities to devise regulations to stem the incidence of wire stealing.
He thinks that sellers taking material to recyclers should have to present their ID and a police certificate of character. We are not sure if this approach will work, but it is worth trying; and it must be supported by appropriate regulations and stiffer penalties.
We are not suggesting that local authorities become copycats, but this larcenous activity has disrupted telephone services and other legitimate activity and strikes directly at the heart of the economy, for, as Mr Williams reminded us, valuable foreign exchange must now be spent to pay for replacement cable. The authorities must act now.