The brazen thieves who stole two tons of copper cables powering the A train did not commit a victimless crime.
Close to 40,000 subway riders to and from the Rockaways, who have few alternatives to get into Manhattan to begin with, really had to scramble on Wednesday. Another 100,000 commuters who use the A train during the morning peak faced cancellations, long waits and crowded cars. And some 635,000 riders of the A -- the longest line in the city system, connecting a sandbar in outer Queens to the hilly parts of Inwood in upper Manhattan -- as well as riders on the C line, saw delays all day long. The A line had limited capacity because the power outage trapped trains parked overnight in their yards and the C couldn't turn active trains around.
The only good news is that no unsuspecting transit workers on the cannibalized section of track in the Howard Beach-Kennedy Airport area were killed by the high electrical charge that suddenly shot through parts of the infrastructure to compensate for the missing circuitry.
While it's easy to blame the MTA for almost anything -- rats on the rails to ever higher fares -- the agency can't police 700 miles of track. But it seems likely someone on the inside, besides the actual thieves, knew what was going on.
The stolen metal that outside contractors helped install after superstorm Sandy to repair significant damage in the marshy area near JFK weighs about eight pounds a foot, and 500 feet was stolen. The scrap metal resale value could be as much as $10,000.
The metal was skillfully cut out from about a dozen spots in an isolated area and spirited away. The culprits had to have some expertise about the circuitry, first not to kill themselves while ripping it out and, second, to know the electrical current would still flow through alternative cables, presumably allowing the theft to go undetected. Finally, when one segment too many was snatched, a train north of the Howard Beach station lost power just before midnight Tuesday.
These crooks had better hope the city transit police catch them before enraged riders of the A train do.