C Marshall Fabrication Machinery, Inc.

How (not to) steal a steel bridge

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According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, two men were arrested a few weeks ago, for stealing a bridge. That’s right, you read that correctly: they stole a bridge.

These enterprising young men, aged 24 and 25 respectively, used a torch to take apart an entire 50-foot steel bridge in North Beaver Township, PA. They actually succeeded in their theft of the 15-ton bridge, which must have been a truly difficult undertaking. Although they now face felony charges of criminal mischief, theft, receiving stolen property and conspiracy, you almost want to admire them a little bit for the effort that must have been involved in successfully stealing an entire bridge without anyone noticing.

However, nearly all articles reporting this theft left readers guessing what their motive could have possibly been, since it was not clear at all why anyone would go to this kind of trouble. It was speculated that maybe they had decided to dismantle or steal it because the bridge was rumored to be haunted (can you say ”grasping at straws”?).

Their motive did later come to light, however, when it was discovered that they had sold the dismantled parts of the steel bridge as scrap metal.

Now that we have a motive, let’s run this back and see how the numbers work out.

The thieves are now being held on $25,000 bail each. This is based on the nature of their crime and on the fact that the bridge they stole had an estimated worth of $100,000. Hopefully for the thieves’ sake, the valuation of the bridge was based mainly on the value of the steel that was used for its construction. Maybe the fact that it was considered haunted had something to do with its perceived value. It certainly wasn’t particularly useful anymore: it was in a secluded rural area, privately owned and used only rarely to transport material (such as scrap metal?). After it was no longer there, workers were easily able to use a nearby road as an alternate route.

Whatever the case may be, looking at the above numbers, you’d think the criminals could easily afford their own bail. After all, they had just sold a bridge valued at $100,000. Sadly, they could not. In spite of their best-laid plans, they had forgotten to check the most important thing of all: the constantly fluctuating value of scrap steel. Unaware that the demand for steel had gone down, they only got a grand total of $5179 for scrapping 31,000 pounds of bridge steel.

They say criminals are criminals because they’re too stupid to make an honest living. For a minute there, I thought I’d actually found a story that was an exception to that rule – after all, it seems like you’d have to be terribly clever to be able to pull off stealing and selling an entire bridge. But finding out that they were only able to cash in $5100 just puts these guys back in line for the “Idiots Supreme”award. They could have made more money working at their local 7-11 for the amount of hours they must have put in on their “Steal the steel bridge” project. And they wouldn’t be sitting in jail right now contemplating their navel lint, either.

Maybe the bridge was haunted, after all.

– By Anja Wulf

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© C Marshall Fabrication Machinery, Inc. 2011


C Marshall Fabrication Machinery, Inc.