Church Bells and Sewer Grates

I remember reading about the problems in the city of Baltimore with thieves stealing aluminum light poles and thinking that was the nadir of urban decay. However, The Baltimore thieves actually had to have some skills and panache to shut of the electricity and cut down a 30 foot light pole.

The Baltimore thefts seem almost whimsical after reading about the current events in my hometown. In Syracuse, we steal church bells and sewer grates. No panache, no skills. Just stealing anything that’s not nailed down to try to make a buck.

Go look at the comments on the articles posted on the web–the typical trolls complaining about how our tax dollars support these people, how lousy the inner city neighborhoods are and some random jabs at the people doing the stealing.

They are missing the point. We live in a city where some folks are so messed up–either financially or pharmaceutically–that they have no problem stealing an historic church bell from one of the oldest inner-city African American congregations or sewer grates from their own streets.

It serves the powers-that-be and the judgement sitters on to allow inner city neighborhoods to be stripped this way. It’s a safety valve for their neighborhoods. But what happens when the inner city neighborhoods cease to have any value left to steal? What happens when the criminals realize they should be stealing, a la Willie Sutton, “where the money is?”

Why don’t we deal with this problem now? If we don’t, we will most assuredly be forced to deal with it later–at a much greater cost.

Check out this letter to the editor in Today’s Post-Standard from Meryl White, a recent S.U. law school graduate about the University Hill after all the students leave for the summer:

“new players have emerged to call this street their home some people suffering from poverty, others from mental illness.”


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