Red Zone Secrets

Here is something I don’t get. If it is safe for demolition workers to go through the contents of earthquaked buildings before/while/after they’re demolished, why is it not safe for the occupiers?

“Safes found during demolition – there had been only half a dozen – were either opened under police or security firm supervision, or, if they were attached to concrete, dumped.”

Why is this even necessary? Is it that hard to work out that a safe found in the rubble of building X maybe belongs to someone occupying building X? Could we build on that and guess that someone occupying building X would be able to open the safe themselves, without force, even if it is attached to concrete?

ConfidentialScarier, is that computers and files containing confidential information, in this case mental health records are 1) being “thrown out” at all and 2) if they are “water-damaged”, which doesn’t fly with me, aren’t being disposed of securely.

“The items she was most concerned about included files and computer hard drives containing personal information. Securities House, a seven-level building in Gloucester St near Latimer Square, was demolished by March Construction and Shilton and Brown in May. It housed at least nine mental health agencies.

Tenants, tipped off about the demolition, managed to stop a truck leaving the site in the rain and divert it to an empty section where the contents were tipped.

Tenants then spent the next two days retrieving files from the rubbish. The files had been in locked metal cabinets which had been emptied.

Office manager Mark Petrie said he had contacted a project manager at the time of the demolition to be told no chance existed for any records or personal effects to be salvaged.

He was told all records were water-damaged and filing cabinets rusted.

A former Shilton and Brown worker who worked on the Securities House demolition told The Press workers were told to throw files, many of which appeared to him to be in good order, in the rubbish.”

Where have some files gone? Who knows.

“Canterbury Muscular Dystrophy Association office manager Eris Le Compte, whose office was on the first floor of Community House, said she had gone to look for the 230 personal medical files she had in her office.”

Hopefully other businesses are doing better, because it’s not just a couple of buildings in the red zone that are housing sensitive information.

CERA feigns ignorance. Clearly some demolition contractors have no idea what they’re doing (or every idea of what they’re doing). If CERA has no knowledge of specific cases of important belongings going missing inside the red zone they’re obviously not doing a very good job.

“A CERA spokeswoman said CERA regularly and actively engaged with contractors who had a clear understanding of their obligations within contracts and the law.

‘We have no knowledge of the specific cases you refer to and we can’t comment on whether any allegations of loss of goods within the CBD Red Zone are attributed to contractors’ staff or some other person,’ the spokeswoman said.”

What’s been going on inside the red zone raises a number of issues businesses need to be planning for. After an event like the Canterbury Earthquake, how effective will locks, safes, and filing cabinets be at protecting valuable and confidential information through demolition and when 930+ people are left roaming in and around your building for a significant period of time?

Image credit: Jeremy Keith

“So how do you feel about your light bulbs being stolen?”

Arie Smith-Voorkamp was the face of Christchurch earthquake looting because of the media attention he received. He made it onto at least one of the <insert bad thing here> the [email protected]@#%^## Facebook groups. Shame on the looters! There is no excuse. Who are they to pick on the poor people of Christchurch?

The loot

The story gets interesting when you find out what he is alleged to have stolen. Two light bulbs from an untenanted and vacant building. Police describe the nature of the offending as serious and say that there is a strong public interest in the case. Arie was in jail for 11 days.

Asperger’sEarthquake Damaged Building

Arie has Asperger’s syndrome which fuels his obsession for all things electrical, including old light fittings. “Sometimes I get that excited about it sometimes I can’t sleep.” He had walked past the building many times, and became fixated on a switch in the shop. Once inside he found that the switch was too modern, but found two light bulbs that he thought he could clean up and display in his house. He says he was not thinking about theft, or the danger he was placing himself in.

Sunday programme

The Sunday programme ran a story about Arie last week, which seemed to excite the Police. Canterbury Central Police Area Commander Inspector Derek Erasmus suggested to the building owners they call TVNZ to try to stop the story going to air.

“On Friday the Sunday programme received an email from Inspector Erasmus advising us that we were under criminal investigation in relation to our story. So we’ll keep you updated on that.”

The victims

Building owners Andrew and Irene Matsis didn’t even know about the “theft” until Sunday contacted them for the story. This seems to contradict the Police calling the offending serious. Surely in serious offending the victims would actually be notified.

“Well since Sunday interviewed the Matsis’ a fortnight ago, senior Police have visited the couple twice. The first time Thursday and again Friday. On Thursday in a press release Inspector Derek Erasmus, said the Matsis’ were now happy for the case to proceed to court, where the matter should be resolved. Sunday spoke to Andrew Matsis just hours ago, he’s happy for the case to go to court but hopes Arie’s name will be cleared.”

On the programme, Andrew says if he knew about the alleged looting he would’ve been angry at Arie for putting himself in danger, not for pinching anything.

Andrew and Irene say they would not have pressed charges if they were contacted by the Police. The interview resulted in the hilarious question: “So… how do you feel about your lightbulbs being stolen?” to which Irene replied: “We do not care about our lightbulbs, he’s welcome to them. And you can tell the Police, I mean we have more important things [to deal with, our] house is falling down and we’re going to worry about light bulbs? No.”

I know stealing is stealing (though is it in this case if the building owners say he is welcome to the light bulbs, abeit after the fact?), but common sense dictates there is a better use of court time and money than to make an example out of someone who offended as a result of a documented disability, who has an unblemished criminal record, and who has already served jail time just because he took a couple of lighting fixtures.

Andrew Matsis: You said you never had any other history of doing anything like that before?
Arie Smith-Voorkamp: No.
AM: First time with the Police?
ASV: Yes.
AM: And they make a court case. What a waste of money.

What do you think? Is there no excuse for looting, no matter the situation?

Image credit: Me