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'Tweekers' Steal Copper Using Government Aid Cell Phones, Santee Mayor Says

Mayor: "This is a perfect example of how such a little return for the thief can do so much damage to the City."

Copper pipes. Patch File Photo
Copper pipes. Patch File Photo
Also read: Mayor Sweeps River Bottom, Finds at Least 15 'Tweaker Tents

Santee Mayor Randy Voepel is fed up with copper thefts and vandalism at city parks, he wrote in an email to Santee Patch, citing a recent incident at Town Center Park that cost the city at least $2,000.

He puts some blame for the problem on cell phones that are given to homeless in order to find a job. He said the phones allow them to team up for metal thefts and use "lookouts" to avoid being caught.

The article "How Cell Phones Throw the Homeless a Lifeline," on Mobiledia.com, outlines how cell phones keep the homeless tied to society:

"The homeless and smartphones seem like an odd combination, but mobile devices are far from being a tool for recreation or a status symbol. They let them to come out of the shadows, drawing attention to their plight and securing valuable services."

Here's the Mayor's message about the thefts and vandalism:

Happy New Year,

We at the City are getting very frustrated at the Copper thefts in Town center Park. 

I believe most of the thefts are done by the "Meth heads" desperately trying to get the next fix. This is a perfect example of how such a little return for the thief can do so much damage to the City.

One of the problems we have is that most of the homeless have cell phones and they work in teams, with the "cutters" being watched over by the lookouts. These people are very difficult for our Sheriffs to catch, because of the darn cell phones.

Oh, California and the Federal Government gives these cell phones to the homeless, supposedly so they can get jobs.

Well we will persevere, as we usually catch the Copper thieves sooner or latter, they aren't THAT smart.

Randy Voepel, Fed up with Tweekers.....2013

Mayor, City of Santee

Also read Santee Crime: $24,000 Cell Phone Burglary; $10,000 in Metal Thefts
Steve Odland January 02, 2014 at 12:20 PM
Does this mean Randy has to resign now for telling the truth?
Shelsea January 02, 2014 at 12:52 PM
The San Diego River Park Foundation is working with the City of Santee to help create a safer, happier, Santee. We are seeking volunteers to help to be the eyes and ears of our parks in Santee, by joining the Park and Trail Team. If you want to make a difference in your community, or for more information, contact Shelsea@SanDiegoRiver.org
chase whittaker January 02, 2014 at 02:13 PM
The whole 'government issued cell phones' taking part of the blame thing is absolutely ridiculous. Putting blame on the federal government for the involvement of their cell phones is akin to blaming Verizon or ATT for their cell phones being used in any of the billions of crimes that take place each and every day. It's absolutely preposterous. Are they homeless? Yes. Would this have been more difficult without the cell phones? Yes. But the fact remains that these crimes would have been committed regardless of whether or not these cell phones had been distributed (yes, people are still capable of talking and planning in person without the aid of electronics). The phones are meant to help homeless people get jobs and have means of contact to the rest of the world including emergency services. I understand much of Santee is Republican and thus in heavy disagreement with the President and his initiatives but if you're going to try and honestly blame him or his programs, you're merely making outlandish connections in an attempt to decry a political figure instead of actually dealing with the issues. Perhaps set up cameras around areas where there are thousands of dollars of accessible, raw materials like copper, higher security, and more protection for the pumps this copper is being taken from. Stop playing the blame game and fix the issue.
James Checo January 02, 2014 at 06:40 PM
They should make it illeagal for the Recycling places to take in the stolen copper. If they couldn't recycle it they wouldn't steal it.
common sense January 02, 2014 at 06:45 PM
Chase. It's also good to know that the free phone program to the poor was started by Ronald Reagan (land lines) and expanded to cell phones under the Bush administration. The 'good' mayor won't make that point, now will he.
Richard West January 02, 2014 at 08:49 PM
The unemployed returning veteran problem could be solved. The posting of snipers with night scopes would solve (1) the uncontrolled theft of public and private property like wire theft and (2) put our brave citizen soldiers at work doing what they are trained to do. The cell phone freebie issue is a non-starter when the crack of a high powered rifle trumps some scurvy thief texting that 'the coast is clear'.
doug January 02, 2014 at 09:31 PM
The government has absolutely NO business providing cell phones to anyone, other than its employees for business.
Handsomish January 03, 2014 at 07:25 AM
You do realize that this Mayor stated what he believes, and not anything factual. Until they catch a homeless person with a government phone in the act of abetting a theft of property, this only a bunch of malarky.
Ty Thompson January 03, 2014 at 07:41 AM
Isn't that why they make copper clad steel wire?
Phil Collins January 03, 2014 at 09:14 AM
Simple put the theives away for 10 years and the word will spread by cell phone to steal something else or get out of town quick.
Karen January 03, 2014 at 09:48 AM
Nowhere to put them. Unless the addicts seek, accept, and complete treatment they will continue to steal whatever they can - copper, auto parts and batteries, whatever people leave in their cars... There is very little consequence if they get caught so of course they continue to take that low risk. The drug problem is out of control in Santee; all the theft stems from it.
Robert Curry January 03, 2014 at 12:16 PM
A NATIONWIDE REQUIREMENT that recycling centers/scrap yards require and copy a government Id by anyone selling scrap, and that they also photograph the scrap, which would be required to be HELD at least 48 hours prior to processing, with payment only by CHECK, would greatly reduce such illegal sales!
Bob B January 03, 2014 at 12:49 PM
Man, we sure are surrounded by crooks, thieves and assorted criminals in every walk of life - I suppose that is why we are considered to be an 'exceptional' country?
Al B January 04, 2014 at 10:32 AM
Update... Eight sheriff's surrounding Cajon park school. Concentrating thier focus on the two main switchgears that were opened inside the property. They appeared to be waiting the suspect(s) out and haven't moved in yet. Typically there is some nice thick copper wire inside those boxes. So hopefully they got one of these guys.
Maggie Acerra January 09, 2014 at 02:10 PM
Blaming homeless cell phone use is just a distraction from the very real problem of increasing crime rates in Santee. Robberies, assaults, vandalism, even murder rates, are on the continuous rise as our Mayor and City Council continue to try and convince Santee residents that they really do live in the "La Jolla" of East County. Whether you agree with a federal Obamaphone program or not, Santee residents must acknowledge that the violent crime rates must be addressed, and that posting electronic signs on Mission Gorge Road that state for us "to lock up our cars and valuables" is not an acceptable solution to this very real and dangerous problem for those of us that live in Santee.
Dennis M Kleinsmith January 24, 2014 at 01:33 PM
I agree with Magie Acerra! Get rid of section 8 housing and the tweekers who live in them and some of the problems goes away.

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