Thieves thrive on high copper prices

Copper theft is a growing problem, as prices for the metal used in electrical circuitry continues to soar.

According to statistics supplied by the London Metal Exchange, it is clear that the price for copper is continuing to rise – reaching $7,380 per tonne this month, up from $6,500 earlier this year.  This is set to carry on into 2012.

Copper is used for an awful lot of electrical goods, accounting for 42 percent of its industry usage.  Demand for electrical appliances means increased copper demand, which, of course, pushes up the price.

As a result, scrap bandits are going to an even greater lengt to get the material into their swag bags.

A bunch of crooks in the US even stripped down a vintage, 122 year old bell – which had survived  various earthquakes, fires and arson attacks, so they could melt it down for a handsome $75,000.

The authorities in the UK aren’t blind to the problem. Police reports earlier this year said thefts are costing the country £770 million annually. 

While there were reports of thieves raiding an electrical substation and causing an electrical surge that caused a blackout for 300 homes in the UK, the problem is having particular effect on the rail network.

Telecommunications networks are a common target for light fingered copper collectors, but the British Transport Police told us that due to the “soaring price of copper” around the world “theft of cable emerged as a serious problem for the rail industry”.

According to a statement from the BTP, there is also a “human, as well as an economic impact”.

This means, the spokesperson says, communities lose power and churches have to replace roofs, and even plaques from the cemetery.

10 people were reportedly killed risking their lives to grab some copper in the past year. 

To stem the tide of the copper pinching crooks, the BTP and the Association of Chief Police Officers are in talks with the government to help “choke off the market for stolen metal”.

Measures include “stringent licensing” and “targeted police powers to shut down rogue dealers”. 

They also want to introduce ID and proof of address when selling scrap, in an attempt to regulate the industry and move it away from cash-in-hand to deter criminals.