Scrap Metal Theft

In any large industrial nation, stealing valuable metal  and general scrap metal theft, has become a serious concern for the local authorities as well as the companies that service them. Businesses, public utilities, railroad companies, and the community at large. Efforts to combat metal theft have occurred for several decades. However, these crimes mainly increase in two separate environments, when the price of the commodity itself increases and when the economy decreases. In the past decade, we’ve had some of both.

While we cannot be sure about the exact amount of metal stolen in the United States, a look at news and other media reports in recent years showed increased scrap metal theft throughout the country, with some areas showing double and triple the amount of reported theft. The following news accounts exemplify the growth of the scrap metal theft problem: The Tucson Weekly (November 2006) reported a one-year 150 percent increase in scrap metal theft, and that’s just locally. Many of your higher theft areas come from big boom areas such as Las Vegas or Phoenix where the construction of new homes bring in the thieves like coyotes. The average new home built today is laden with copper wiring.

The energy industry claims, that broken transformers in neighborhoods and substations in particular larger urban areas are costing somewhere between $500,000 and higher to repair a year. This includes reimbursement cost to customers on top of rebuilding the structures themselves. Ultimately, you and I pay for it.

According to a 2007 report by the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, copper theft is highest in Hawaii, Arizona, California and Oregon, and is increasing in the rural Midwest and South. Urban and warmer locations appear particularly susceptible to numerous thefts of small amounts of scrap metal by transient populations who often do not own a car and finance their travel by illegal scrapping. Communities without nearby scrap metal dealers are probably more secure from scrap metal theft than those with a ready supply of them. Scrap metal theft affects every state, and particular places within local communities are especially susceptible to it, such as the following:

Vacant and foreclosed properties are especially susceptible to theft because they often lack effective guardianship and are easily identifiable. the wiring, piping and other fixtures in a home are all available for a quick sale.

Construction sites have become susceptible to theft when contractors leave metal such as large spools of copper wire unsecured. While wire theft can occur almost anywhere, new construction sites and vacant housing are more-easily attacked targets.