Chump Change: Criminals From New York To Florida Raiding Fountains and Meters From Coins

220px-2006_Quarter_ProofIn Saratoga Springs, a historic cast-iron fountain was knocked over by individuals trying to steal coins thrown with wishes into the pool. It was a senseless act for chump change, but the culprits may soon learn that you have to be careful what you wish for: there are cameras inside faux bird houses in the park that may have captured their images. In the meantime, Buffalo meter maids have confessed to stealing 840,000 quarters from meters over the course of eight years.

The Saratogian is reporting that the fountain can be repaired. However, the senseless destruction of such art is truly shocking. The problem is how to properly punish such an act since it goes beyond simple vandalism. The case raises the question of whether there should be enhanced penalties for the destruction of public art and landmarks. We have seen art works stolen in the United States and abroad to be melted down for their metal as scrap.

The meter maid scandal in Buffalo involves former employee James Bagarozzo who was a mechanic on the meters. He rigged the meters to allow him to steal $210,000 over more than eight years. He would store them in his truck and then bring them to banks for cash. He confessed and blamed a gambling addiction. He was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison. His former co-worker, Lawrence Charles admitted stealing $15,000 in quarters over about five years. He’s expected to get six months to a year in prison.

I was particularly struck by the risk taken by Charles. He had to steal a huge number of coins over five years in order to scrap together $15,000. That is not a lot of money since the ultimate ruination of his life. If he used a fraction of that effort for gainful employment, he would have made more. As with the fountain case, it shows how criminals often take extraordinary efforts and risks for relatively tiny amounts of money.

It is also clear that parking booths are more lucrative avenues for larceny than meters as shown in our recent local scandal at the Smithsonian. However, the most lucrative theft can be found in meter contracts in places like Chicago. Chicagoans are reeling from the most expensive parking fees in the country. These fees are the result of a corrupt contract signed by former mayor Richard Daley with Morgan Stanley. Daley gave the company an absurd 75 year monopoly that will give the company $11 billion. It may be the single greatest money grab in the history of the city but it is perfectly legal. Who needs to steal quarters when you can use the Daley family and grab $11 billion. In the meantime, Chicagoans are paying roughly $7 an hour to park on the street.

13 thoughts on “Chump Change: Criminals From New York To Florida Raiding Fountains and Meters From Coins”

  1. Until today WordPress has not eaten any of my posts, however it happened the first time with my post prior to this one.

  2. Squeaky.

    Better write your poetry now before corrupt politicians sell the right to issue poetic licenses to Morgan Stanly and allow M S to charge exorbitant fees.

  3. Slugs. A slug is a metal piece that is the exact size of a quarter. They are cheaper to buy than twenty five cents so that you are ahead when you use a slug at a parking meter. If someone says that you put the slug in the meter you say: No I didn’t there– was time on the meter when I parked there. There is a company in DC which sells slugs for about a nickel a piece. It is called SlugsRus. You can knock the slug out of the back of an electric box and file off the rough edges and do ok. Excuse me, I have to go find my file.

  4. To follow up on Mike Spindell’s comment. When I was living in D.C. a few years ago I asked my roommate how to get to Georgetown. He told me I could go by car but I’d better be prepared for losing time finding a parking spot and that is was expensive. He told me I could choose to take METRO but in that case I’d better having good walking shoes since it’s a bit of a walk. He said the METRO stop was put in far enough from the main part of Georgetown (and its chic and expensive stores) to discourage poorer folks from returning too often. Sad thing is that I immediately believed him and still do.

  5. At the Walmart nearby there is some large plastic barrel which one can see into and it is full of change and some one dollar bills. I wonder what the cleaning folks do at night around there.

  6. Hmmm. Based on some previous comments on another thread, I was spurred to write an Irish Poem:

    No Quarter???

    There once were some Meter Maids fair,
    Who got caught stealing quarters. I swear
    When asked their defense,
    To the Class D offense,
    They both claimed, “Existential Despair???”

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

    Note: The Meter Maids were actually 2 machine mechanics. I am not sure what level the offense was, I am guessing Class D. They didn’t actually use the “Existential Despair Defense,” I was just being sarcastic. Whew, good thing I have a Poetic License!

  7. When things done normally in the life of citizens become profit centers for the government the realization sets in that things are going bad. Am I being too paranoid in thinking that this is but another example of our society’s deterioration into a feudalistic state. With wealth parking fees become a quite minor annoyance easily tolerable because the cost doesn’t affect ones bottom line. Move down the food chain and these fees make an impact, in fact limiting a person’s mobility. The ostensible reason for making parking expensive in NYC for instance was the seemingly noble goal of getting more people to use public transportation. Was that for public benefit, or so those that could afford it could get around more easily. As the business has grown around the country it becomes more apparent that the peasants must realize they are delaying our “nobility” from comfortably driving to their more important destinations.

  8. Maybe the “criminals” “raiding” the fountain are destitute folks who have no other means in providing for their family other than to “steal” coins from a fountain?

  9. It may be the single greatest money grab in the history of the city but it is perfectly legal. Who needs to steal quarters when you can use the Daley family and grab $11 billion. In the meantime, Chicagoans are paying roughly $7 an hour to park on the street.

    That racket got so bad in California, where you have to purchase a permit to park in front of your own house, that it started some counterrevolution. Parking officers were shot at or sabotaged:

    Assaults on meter maids are on the rise in both Los Angeles and San Francisco. Incidents include tire slashings and the beating of a parking enforcement officer. Legislation has been introduced in the California Assembly to double the maximum fine for assault on parking enforcement officers.

    (NPR). The solution out there is raise the fines and make more things criminal.

    The never consider their own inducement.

  10. Easy money… And criminals usually don’t think… Art… A different story…replacement value….

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