Sunday, April 13, 2008

Got Copper? Are You Sure It's Still There?

I've heard about thieves here in Lincoln comma Nebraska stealing copper wiring from cell phone towers, but hadn't heard about them actually living in foreclosed / vacant / listed homes for a few days to get the copper pipes, sinks, electrical wiring, et cetera. At $3 a pound, it makes sense. Apparently the best crews make $20k a month.

"It's an international problem with local repercussions. From the theft of large copper statues in England, to millions of dollars of missing copper in post-Katrina New Orleans, to a $300,000 copper heist from the irrigation system of an Arizona farm, the thieves have caused financial havoc.

In Minnesota, scavengers have dismembered a copper-coated Buddha, stolen statues from Theodore Wirth Park, snatched plates off of graves and stripped warehouses and construction sites of tens of thousands of dollars worth of the precious metal."

Grave markers? That's classy. But I wonder, too--what about gardens? What about my 100% copper trellis, obelisk, rain gauge, and fountain? I love copper in the garden, but will I wake up one day to find nothing left but morning glory and clematis vines dementedly wagging in the breeze?

Metal scrap shops have installed video cameras and signs in an attempt to make transactees more honest, and / or to aid in police investigations. I imagine it's in their best interest, too, as far as a bottom line--that copper will be bagged and tagged for the cops if it's ill gotten, and they'd be out some benjamins (that's right, "ill gotten" and "benjamins" in the same sentence).


Unknown said...

Metal scrap shops around here have done things like that... but there are other things they could do that they are not. For example, require a driver's license be presented with every scrap turn-in, hold commonly stolen items like copper pipe for X days before they do anything with it, etc. They don't do these things because they're afraid the scrap will stop coming in. HMM.

Frances, said...

Meigs County, TN school system was shut down last week when the copper from the electrical station was stolen, causing shorts and power outage. 6,000 people affected. Now I worry about my twenty four inch copper praying mantis sculpture, rain bowl and wire used to hold the standard trained butterfly bushes and peegee hydrangeas to their poles. It's all about those ill gotten benjamins.

tina said...

Bad thieves! I thought the problem only common to war torn spots like Iraq. Whole buildings were stripped of every mechanical item, pipes, wires, heating units-you name it. It was surreal thing to see. It happens here too.

Anonymous said...

Geez, Benjamin! This reminds me of "The Full Monty." There's only one thing to do: Stand garden gnomes on guard around all your copper ornaments. (On second thought, perhaps installing those deer deterrents that spray water on whatever ventures in reach would be a tad more effective...)

WiseAcre said...

We just had a case where 3 workers at a paper mill were arrested for stealing a couple hundred thousand dollars of wiring, burned off the insulation then sold the copper as scrap. There have been a few other major thefts recently too. In each case the theives were caught. One is a 3 time looser and is facing a possible life sentence.

It may be easy to steal but cashing in at scrap years is getting harder each day. I have a feeling the theives will go back to the classic - ripping off camps and cottages during the off season around here.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Kim--Yeah, they should hold the metal for a few days. That makes perfect sense to me.
Frances--I really wonder why it isn't more common to just walk through a suburban hood looking for copper garden art. I'm glad it isn't, really glad, but I've even heard of plant stealing, so why not?
Tina--Oh I bet it's just awful in places like Iraq. I can't imagine. Then what that does to the infrastructure.
OFB--No gnomes. Grrrr. Sprinklers--yesiree bob.
WA--Camps and cottages make sense to me if I were a thief, ahem; Summer homes and what not. 3 strikes and you're out--good or bad?