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Copper Thieves At it Again

Mar 27, 2023

Jon James

Copper thieves are seeking out the richest areas for their prized material due to it being such a hot commodity and lucrative unlawful business. Such areas could include electrical power stations, middle class homes, or a highway construction site. According to a CNBC article, Mark Koba states, “Those are just a handful of recent targets across the U.S. in the $1 billion business of copper theft.”

So, why do people steal copper in the first place? Well, the profits are great because it is a valuable metal for scrap. Copper is used for many different items ranging from fiber optics, plumbing, and everything electrical. Also, the punishment for stealing copper is minimal – so the risk is low. According to the Department of Energy, the possibility of getting caught, prosecuted and convicted are all next to none.

Other reasons could include a bad economy. Most of the time when the economy is at a low, the construction industry suffers. It has been reported that unemployed construction workers could reluctantly harvest copper from various resources to make a quick buck.

Suffice it to say, not all copper thieves are construction workers. However, some thieves can be downright mean. According to a Gizmodo article, Adrian Covert states, “In the Northern California city of San Leandro, 10,000 feet of copper wire was stolen in the middle of the night from underground, leaving some residents without power.” The article also raises concerns about the heightened desperation of the copper crooks by stating, “there was one man in Illinois who died after trying to rip out a live copper wire from a power substation. He was literally blown out of his shoes.”

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the five leading states for the thefts are Ohio, Texas, Georgia, California and Illinois. By the continual targeting of electrical substations, cellular towers, telephone land lines, railroads, and water wells, copper thieves pose a threat to crucial U.S. infrastructure.

Unfortunately stopping the copper theft epidemic is unlikely, but attempts to make it less attractive are being made. For example, some utility companies are using copper weld wiring instead of just straight copper. According to the CNBC article, Mark Koba explains this new wiring technique by stating, “It has a steel core and copper on the outside. It costs [the utility companies] a lot to put it in but it doesn’t have the same value as straight copper wiring so we expect this to cut back on thefts.”

In reality, if the price of copper remains high enough to encourage thieving, this problem is not going away any time soon.