I used to think that “NIMBY” was a cute word. The moniker—an acronym for Not In My Back Yard—was coined in 1980 by the head of the American Nuclear Society to describe activists opposed to nuclear power plants in their communities, but has since found a home in the construction industry, where “growth” meets “sprawl,” as builders encounter individuals, community groups, and even local governances opposed to new home building in their vicinities. For me, the word itself always conjured up images of a cartoon character, perhaps not entirely benevolent, but not necessarily evil. A trip to Pennsylvania to profile remodeler Harth Builders for the September 2004 issue of PROSALES changed my opinion.
Harth was working on a whole-house remodel, and as part of a customer service effort to refrain from using the homeowner's facilities, he had stationed a portable toilet in one corner of the backyard. That didn't sit well with neighbors, who complained that it was an eyesore. The unit was easily removed, but several days later, Harth's clients found broken glass in their swimming pool—presumably thrown there by vengeful neighbors. Hearing the story, my mental picture of the NIMBY next door didn't seem so cute anymore.
So when another friendly looking moniker popped up on industry radar, I was prepared. Described by the FBI as America's No.1 domestic terrorist threat, ELF—an acronym for Earth Liberation Front—has recently graduated from fire-bombing SUV dealerships to torching construction sites and setting pro dealer yard inventory ablaze—all in the name of environmental stewardship. This past summer, ELF operatives staged their most costly attack to date at a Stock Building Supply location in Salt Lake City, setting a fire that resulted in $1.5 million in damages. While the arson was described by the North American ELF press office—a legally operating media information center—as retaliation for forklift emissions, the destruction was accompanied by a graffiti message that read: “If you build it, we will burn it.”
Don't even bother scratching your head for the logic on this one. Contractors aren't pausing to find a method in the madness, and neither should suppliers. According to “Fighting Eco Terrorism,” an article on ELF by Wendy Leibowitz in the October 2004 issue of BIG BUILDER, a sister publication of PROSALES, the NAHB has engaged the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to discuss what efforts builders can take to secure their jobsites against potential attacks. Recommendations range from keeping an open dialogue with security companies, local law enforcement officials, and fire departments to installing video cameras and signage at facilities and stating that the property is under security surveillance.
At times it may seem like terrorism—both foreign and domestic—is becoming a fact of life. But make no mistake about it, no matter how innocuous the name might seem, violent crime for the sake of any cause isn't just ineffective, it's illegal. If you have any suspicions regarding the safety of your company, employees, or customers, immediately contact your local authorities. Although ELF purportedly supports the right for all individuals to have access to shelter, that seemingly does not include the corresponding right for the construction of new homes. As major players in that industry, dealers must be aware of “green collar” crime—and they need to do their part to help prevent it.