Scrap iron dealers blame TSTT for rise in copper theft

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Allan Ferguson –

THE Scrap Iron Dealers Association has blamed the increase in larceny of scrap metal – which has led to the deaths of several people – on the Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT).

In 2018, TSTT announced a zero copper campaign which aims stop services using copper infrastructure. Since then, there have been many reports of people stealing TSTT cable copper wires from electricity poles.

Scrap iron dealers collect and export copper.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Scrap Iron Dealers Association president Allan Ferguson said, because TSTT continually refused to work with the association to find a solution, the number of illegal scrap iron dealers is growing.

Ferguson said the association would not be blamed or linked to any future incidents involving theft of cable wire, scrap iron and any deaths that may have resulted.

“I am putting all the blame on TSTT today, and our association is not taking no blame for nobody climbing up no pole to steal TSTT wire. I am not going to put my organisation in any position to take that blame,” he stressed.

On April 9, a man was electrocuted in Barrackpore while trying to steal copper cable. His body remained entangled in the overhead lines before a TTEC crew removed it.

Last week, Dillon Shaughn, 23, of Carapichaima, was allegedly stealing copper when a resident shot him in the head and killed him.

In February 2021, police found the body Michael Sooknanan,14, of Cotton Hill Road, Mayo wrapped between electrical wires on a pole. Police believe he was trying to steal copper.

Ferguson said the association wrote to TSTT two months ago asking for a meeting to talk about how the problem could be stopped. He is still waiting for a response, he said.

“If they had met with us, we would have shown them what we could do to stop this theft immediately.”

Then, within a week, he said, “We would have put a proposal together to show them we want to partner with them.

“We would have even put in money to use some of their contractors to remove the old cable wires people are thieving every day. We weren’t asking them for money, we were going to pay them in US dollars.

But because TSTT did not agree, he said, “Look at what’s still happening today.

“So I’m putting all these people that got killed on TSTT, because they had an offer to remove all these wires, and that is why we decided we are not going to take the blame.

“The media keep saying it’s scrap dealers, but scrap dealers don’t go out and do these things. It’s regular people coming off the street looking for a little change.”

He distanced his membership from the recent theft of TSTT wires and stolen scrap iron reports after a Tobago man was charged for cable larceny last week. The police report identified the man is a scrap iron dealer but Ferguson said he was not registered with the association.

Ferguson renewed his call for Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales to bring legislation to regularise the sale and purchase of scrap iron.

“This is hurting our industry. We telling TSTT to do something about this, meet with us. I’m telling TT we would do something about this to let them know we are not going to let people destroy this organisation.”

He thanked acting Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob for meeting with the association and hopes the police will continue to work with the association to deal with this issue.

TSTT officials could not be reached for comment.