The Crime of Copper Theft

Nowadays it is common for thieves to enjoy lucrative pursuits in stealing anything containing copper purely for the basic scrap value. Copper is a rare and valuable commodity and in light of recent price rises is fast becoming the new silver. Copper theft has thus become one of the fastest growing crimes in the western world.

The copper extraction process is long and complex but modern day living would be impossible without this versatile metal. Most homes and commercial buildings have copper pipes to the central heating systems and copper components to the wiring of electrical installations since copper is the metal of choice and is an excellent conductor of electricity. Copper is needed for computers, cell phones and just about all the technology we take for granted; there is nothing like copper for its suitability in plumbing due to its malleable nature. It is one of the earth’s rarer resources and therefore an expensive commodity.

The cost of copper continues to soar ever higher, making it an alluring target for metal thieves. The amount of destruction caused to a property that has been stripped of its copper wiring and pipe work far outweighs the value of the metal itself but causes no end of disruption to the businesses that are affected. The property is rendered uninhabitable with water pipes, gas pipes and electrical wiring removed.

Unscrupulous scrap metal merchants have added to the ongoing problem by offering ‘Cash for scrap’ where no ID for the transaction is requested. Copper theft is now an increasing problem on both sides of the Atlantic and the theft of this precious metal is not only isolated to buildings. Railway networks, electrical substations, overhead cables, statues and even war memorials have been targeted. Theft of this nature causes major inconvenience and even deaths in some extreme incidents. As copper is used for gas pipes, if thieves do not bother to turn of the gas supply first, the outcome can literally be explosive.

In wartime in the UK, people were proud to donate their cast iron railings and aluminum pans to the war effort but now there is an underclass with a mentality so low that they will think nothing of ripping out the central heating pipes in their rented property to sell at the scrap yard in order to fund an alcohol or drug habit. People like this cause an increase in insurance premiums which thus results in increased rents for those tenants who do respect their landlord’s property.

Thieves know they will likely get away with their crimes and even if they are caught red-handed the punishment meted out to them is unlikely to be severe. Copper theft is a disease gnawing away at the fabric of society and much more needs to be done by governments to tackle this type of crime.