Thieves rip off a thousand speaker wires in Ohio

It’s just terrible to see the strange ingenuity of desperate morons who steal copper wiring. Copper theft is a plague in many parts of the country, and now WCMH, Columbus OH’s news leader, says it’s the motivation behind the theft of over 1000 speakers at the South Drive-In Friday morning. But I disagree; more about that in a moment.

First, the facts. According to surveillance video, two men with wire cutters drove in to the South around 5 am and starting cutting wires where the connect to the speaker poles, collecting the wires and the speakers attached to them. South General Manager Bryon Teagardner said that the show will go on with FM sound, and that he’s alerted salvage yards to be on the lookout for someone trying to cash in hundreds of short wire pieces.

“One little 4-foot section or 5-foot section of what they took off of one speaker, the salvage price is not even 20 cents worth of copper in it,” Teagardner said. You know, I think he’s right, these wires weren’t worth enough to cause this theft. I base this opinion partly because of drive-in history and partly because of the internet.

Remember all those drive-in cartoons that talked about “accidentally” snapping off a speaker and returning it to the box office? That was a nice way of saying that drive-ins wanted those expensive speakers back. According to Drive-In Theatres by Kerry Segrave, “Speaker theft got so bad that some theaters implemented a policy of offering rewards, $50 or $100 for example, for reporting speaker theft.” Diligent drive-in operators needed to check every day to see which speakers still worked, plus which speakers were still there.

Everybody in the video report is so focused on the $200 of copper that they’ve overlooked the $10,000 of speakers. Go to eBay and search on “drive-in speaker”. They start around $10 and go up to $40 or more, with higher prices for clean speakers in working condition. These thieves might not be headed to the salvage yard; they might be headed online or to flea markets. That’s where I’d put out the word to watch for these thieves’ wares. Let’s hope those speakers get plugged in again soon.

Update: Turns out those thieving morons were even stupider than I surmised. Bryon Teagardner dropped me a note to say they didn’t take the speakers. Thanks for the note, and hope everything’s back to normal soon!