Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Eating Us Alive

Below is reproduced an article about how the innards af an antique clock in downtown Victoria were stolen for scrap, likely to feed someone's drug habit. It is just a small but particularly pathetic example of the disease of drug addiction is eating our cities alive as surely as cancer eats the huma body alive. The sad thing is that the only solution that is seriously advanced for this disease is not systematic treatment but prohibition of the same form that was tried for alcohol in the early twentieth century and which failed then as surely as the drug prohibition will fail now.

In my work in Toronto I helped a number of doctors who were facing battles with drugs and alcohol through the regulatory system as they worked to keep their licences. With the assistance of excellent medical care, strong support systems and carefull montitoring, these professionals were spared the indiginities and stigmatization of loss of licence, jail or other forms of punishment. These doctors (and the same is true of lawyers, nurses and vets) were both saved for themselves and for the rest of us as they returned to being fully productive members of society.

This dramatically contrasts with the treatment most addicts get as they are left untreated for both addiction and concurrent mental illness, are left with out support programs and are generally cast out of scoiety and condemned to one form of destruction of another. Society offers them little more than the street and not surprisingly they offer society little in return other than contempt.

There has to be a better way.


Clock takes a licking, stops ticking
Police suspect drug addicts took off with timepiece's innards to feed habit
Special to The Globe and Mail
August 7, 2007

VICTORIA -- Time now stands still for a century-old clock in the B.C. capital after suspected drug addicts gutted its inner works to fund their habit.
Victoria police say the four-metre-tall clock, erected in 1900, is missing its pendulum, a 22-kilogram lead weight and other parts.
Constable Barry Cockle, a veteran street crime officer, said it's most likely a crystal-meth-infused crime."They're stealing the lead for the lead. It's worth recycling money," he said.

The lead weight, along with a 12-kilogram aluminum ball at the end of the clock's pendulum, could be sold to scrap dealers or recycling depots to buy more drugs.
It's a growing problem for many cities. Thieves have proven to be resourceful and brazen, even targeting hydro and telephone substations to steal copper wire. In one such case on Vancouver Island, according to B.C. Hydro, thieves tore up the ground grid to pull up the wiring.
Hundreds of Victoria parking meters have been damaged or stolen to get small amounts of change, and will have to be replaced with less vulnerable devices that will cost taxpayers up to $5-million dollars.
"Basically, it's reaching the point that if it's not nailed down, they're going to steal it," Constable Cockle said. "Even then. ..."
The clock, located outside a jewellery store, sits idle at 12.
"It's very sad. It's been a trademark all these years," said Paul Groppe, co-owner of Francis Jewellers since 1995. "When we took over the store, we took over the name and the clock. ... When we saw the damage, we were heartbroken."
The timepiece has been a landmark for decades. The Joseph Mayer Co. made the clockworks in Seattle, and Hutchison Bros., who also made Victoria's unique lampposts still in use today, made the cast-iron clock standard.
The clock is powered by a weekly cranking of the heavy cast weight, which is no small chore, and the complex antique device has to be taken apart to ensure it lasts.
The clock was originally erected a few blocks from the city's scenic inner harbour. When F.W. Francis opened a jewellery shop across from the Hudson's Bay in 1921, he moved the clock in front of his store. Since then, it has followed the shop and its subsequent owners.
Reid Hudson, who runs Selkirk Recycling in Victoria, is perplexed, however, by the notion there's a lot of money to be made in selling scrap. At his operation, aluminum is purchased for 32 cents a pound, lead for only 20 cents a pound. All told, the clock heist would net the thieves around $15.
Mr. Hudson said he's been working with police to stop the trade of stolen goods, but said it's difficult to determine who's broken the law. He said his employees will do their best to screen sellers, but added at the end of the day it's difficult to prove where something has come from.
Mr. Hudson said he's had lengthy discussions with businesses on the Lower Mainland that no longer accept "walk-in business."
"You've got the homeless, the dumpster divers, that subsidize their business by finding stuff that was going to be thrown out to get money. That's a service they provide. You've got guys that make a living by going to construction sites and cleaning up, because the people on site, that would have to do it anyway, can get them to do it."
As for the historic timepiece, it will be fixed, but it's going to take time. Mr. Groppe said a watchmaker, who specializes in pre-1900 clocks, has agreed to take on the project. But the intricate and unique nature of its inner workings can't be replicated overnight.
Some damage done a few years ago forced the jewellers to draw sketches of most of the clock's moving parts, so they've got a head start in replacing what was stolen. Still, it won't be keeping time for Victorians for another two to three months.
Constable Cockle said very little appears to be sacred, especially when drugs are the end result of someone's ambition. He's "put the word on the streets" that police are looking for the thieves, but he isn't overly hopeful about catching those responsible, or stopping this type of crime.
"They're walking around, pushing their shopping carts and thinking about 'what can I steal?' The heritage? They could care less."

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1 comment:

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