Friday, January 11, 2013

As Copper Prices Near $4 Dollars, Metal Theft Rising

Stolen wire, an electrocution death, and fires at area buildings all have one connection that inspectors know all too well - metal theft. Metal recyclers have taken precautions to avoid buying stolen scrap, but the issue has drawn the attention of legislators across the country. "There's only so much stolen material you can knowingly buy," says one recycler. "You'd be a fool to think you're going to get away with it."

Police are investigating the theft of $300,000 worth of copper wire from the Anchorman 2 movie set in Atlanta, which was stolen last week.

Paramount Productions was renting building space in northwest Atlanta during production of the movie.

According to police, the owner of the building discovered that more than $300,000 in copper wiring was stolen along with four Apple computers.

The owner of the building said he believes the thieves entered through a rear garage door. A sign offering a reward of $5,000 was posted at the building

In September, more than 250,000 pounds of copper were recycled in the NYC metropolitan area. One legislator believes that scrap metal thieves see it as an easy buck. "I think people think there's a lot of money in scrap, but it's a lot of work for the amount that you're stealing,” he said. "It's really not worth it."

However, copper is bought for a far higher price than steel or other metals, he said. Copper prices can fetch close to $4 for one pound.

Metal recyclers have begun taking inbound and outbound photos of loads, are capturing the license plate of each vehicle coming in, and are holding loads for a week - just to be sure none of the metal has been reported stolen - in anticipation of new state regulations.

Most buyers of scrap metal, particularly those that deal in cash, will likely encounter stolen scrap. "Metal theft has become a major problem because stolen metal can easily be recycled for cash. You ask questions about where it's coming from just to make sure," he said of dealing with sellers. "You can catch a liar really quickly."

A recent study showed a relationship between the price of copper and the number of scrap metal crimes. As the price went up, incidents of copper theft also went up.

[See ElectricWeb | Blogger, Sep14, 2012]

"Economic hardship, in most instances, may drive an individual to uncharacteristic behavior,” one researcher said. "Economic desperation might provide sufficient justification to break the law."