Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuba Thefts Plague High School Bands

I hadn't heard of this trend but it makes sense. Apparently, tubas are such a hot commodity in the southern California area that their popularity has created a rash of tuba thefts according to this piece over at the LA Times.
Those are just the latest in what police and music instructors are describing as a rash of unsolved tuba thefts at high schools in southeast Los Angeles County. The thefts, according to band leaders, were probably spurred by Southern California's banda music craze, as well as the high prices the brass instruments fetch on the black market. A high-quality tuba can cost well more than $5,000, but even an old, dented tuba can sell for as much as $2,000, music teachers say.
I posted before about the acronym CRAVED that is used to describe items that are hot commodities for thieves. The acronym stands for:
  • Concealable. Things that can be hidden in pockets or bags are more vulnerable to shoplifters and other sneak thieves. Things that are difficult to identify or can easily be concealed after being stolen are also more at risk. In some cases, thefts may even be concealed from the owners of goods, as when lumber or bricks left lying around on building sites are stolen.
  • Removable. The fact that cars and bikes are mobile helps explain why they are so often stolen. Nor is it surprising that laptop computers are often stolen since these are not only desirable but also easy to carry. What is easy to carry depends on the kind of theft. Both burglars and shoplifters steal cigarettes, liquor, medicines, and beauty aids from supermarkets, but burglars take them in much larger quantities.
  • Available. Desirable objects that are widely available and easy to find are at higher risk. This explains why householders try to hide jewelry and cash from burglars. It also helps explain why cars become more at risk of theft as they get older. They become increasingly likely to be owned by people living in poor neighborhoods with less off-street parking and more offenders living nearby. Finally, theft waves can result from the availability of an attractive new product, such as the cell phone, which quickly establishes its own illegal market (see box).
  • Valuable. Thieves will generally choose the more expensive goods, particularly when they are stealing to sell. But value is not simply defined in terms of resale value. Thus, when stealing for their own use, juvenile shoplifters may select goods that confer status among their peers. Similarly, joyriders are more interested in a car's performance than its financial value.
  • Enjoyable. Hot products tend to be enjoyable things to own or consume, such as liquor, tobacco, and DVDs. Thus, residential burglars are more likely to take DVD players and televisions than equally valuable electronic goods, such as microwave ovens. This may reflect the pleasure-loving lifestyle of many thieves (and their customers).
  • Disposable. Only recently has systematic research begun on the relationship between hot products and theft markets, but it is clear that thieves will tend to select things that are easy to sell. This helps explain why batteries and disposable razors are among the most frequently stolen items from American drug stores.
This comes from Chapter 31 of  the excellent book Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers. Knowing what items are CRAVED in your area can help you focus on strategies to combat these types of crimes. In this instance, since we know that school bands are most likely to have this CRAVED item, we could focus prevention efforts on hardening the target locations and instituting practices that might make these types of thefts harder to pull off. 

What items are CRAVED in your jurisdiction right now?

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