Thursday, February 22, 2007

Years ago when I was a newspaper reporter in the Phoenix area, I heard about an incident at a local high school that was absolutely unbelievable. Dozens of ambulances were called to the school after bleachers on an athletic field collapsed. Someone had been quietly stealing pieces of the aluminum bleachers and selling those pieces for scrap.

In 2003, a WSDOT maintenance crew working on the Hood Canal Bridge caught thieves stealing metal parts from extra bridge pontoons moored in Port Gamble Bay in north Kitsap County. They went a step further and scoured local scrap yards in Kitsap and Pierce counties, eventually finding bridge parts in Tacoma. That led to convictions in Kitsap County Superior Court.

These are not victimless crimes. Fortunately, I don't recall there being any serious injuries at the school but the bleacher collapse story shows that the theft of materials is more than just a budget concern. Our guardrails and signal systems deployed on local highways are critical safety devices. And you and I are at risk if those devices are not working.

WSP and WSDOT are working together to target metal thieves. But we can't be everywhere. We need you to be the eyes and ears in your neighborhood and on your highways.

Here are a few things to look for:

  • Work zones are clearly signed. You should see a sign telling you a work zone is set up ahead.
  • Our WSDOT crews and contractors' trucks and equipment are clearly identified with logos - either the WSDOT's "flying T" or the contractors' name and logo.
  • Workers wear reflective clothing and hard hats.

Thanks for your assistance.