By DANA SMITH
Tribune Staff Reporter
TALL Pines MP Leslie Miller and Super Value president Rupert Roberts say the government “doesn’t understand” the overall negative effect that copper theft has on the country.
He said it’s “disheartening” that the thefts have continued unabated.
Mr Roberts said copper thieves “seem to have the government and the police on their knees” as both groups seem helpless to do anything about it.
He said: “Merchants feel that the police and the government are not listening to their cries for help.”
He emphasised the “severeness” of the copper theft incidents, saying they cost local companies hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage – and could even force businesses to shut down.
Just last Wednesday, he said, thieves took copper wiring from Super Value’s Wulff Road location.
“Fortunately tubing can be replaced overnight but when they steal the valves and the electronic equipment with the tubing, it takes months to replace it,” Mr Roberts explained.
“When thieves steal equipment it has the potential of closing the stores for months, putting 40 to 50 people out of work.”
In addition, if the disruption is not caught in time, he said, up to $500,000 in perishables could be lost due to lack of refrigeration, while thousands of dollars in Freon is released into the environment when the copper tubing is cut or broken.
One way to bring these thieves to justice, the supermarket chief said, is to catch them when they are selling the stolen copper to scrap-metal yards.
“Of the hundreds of thousands of dollars of theft and damage caused to businesses, copper thieves only receive pennies for their effort. The junkyard makes the real profit when they export the copper,” Mr Roberts said.
“We are appealing to the government to put a moratorium on the export of copper. To stop this intolerable practice of copper – the way they’ve done around the other Caribbean islands and countries.”
Mr Miller also hit out at the scrap-metal companies that buy the stolen goods and said copper thefts have “gone on for far too long”.
“Why would these scrap yards – fellow comes to you with brand new copper – buy the copper?” Mr Miller asked.
“We must stop these scrap yards from exporting copper out of this country or were going to be finished, business is going to close down, it’s going to affect the lives of the ordinary Bahamians that work in these enterprises. It is not fair.”
The BEC chairman noted the corporation he heads has faced several instances of copper theft in the past – occurring on an almost weekly basis, he said – and urged the government to clamp down on copper exports.
“The government and my colleagues in parliament need to deal with it,” Mr Miller said.
“I’ve asked them before to deal with this matter – they don’t understand, they don’t appreciate the fact that it affects the lives of business and Bahamians throughout the length and breath of this country. We must put a stop to it.
“You can go at these sites and disallow those scrap metal guys from buying the copper and disallow them from exporting. You will see overnight that market evaporating. Now, do they have the guts or the fortitude to do it? We shall see.”
If the government doesn’t ban copper exports, Mr Miller said, businesses will close and Bahamians will lose their jobs.
“I guess if the government doesn’t do anything about it, then they’re going to find jobs to replace those people who would have lost their jobs through theft,” he said. “I don’t think the prime minister and his Cabinet would wish to have that done; therefore you simply do the right thing by putting a ban on the export of copper. Its very simple, just do it – ban the export.”
Mr Miller also dismissed talk of a backlash arising from the scrap-metal industry over the export ban.