Epidemic of Copper thefts

Posted on: November 19, 2010

It seems that stealing copper is a lucrative business. Of course most of the thieves steal copper to get money for drugs. According to an recent article, druggies are stealing to feed their habit because copper prices are soaring.

Copper is selling for $3.89 pound and copper thieves can steal up to a couple of hundred pounds from homes, apartments and new construction. Never mind that copper helps to heat homes and provide water to a home, all these druggies want is to feed their habit.

After stealing the copper, thieves unload it at scrap metal shops sometimes within hours after stealing the copper piping. These thieves are smart because some of the copper has identifiable markings in invisible ink. As a result, they run the piping under black lights to make sure that there are no identifiable markings.  

One of the scrap metal shops is Atlas Metal and Iron in the Denver, Colorado area. They have cooperated with police in numerous investigations. However, it is nearly impossible to distinguish stolen copper from legitimate copper. Legitimate copper comes from demolition and can be recycled.

Under Colorado law, if the copper load is over 25 pounds, metal buyers must record the ID of the seller, a description of the commodity and hold it for five days, unless it’s photographed. In addition, they take down license plates of the people bringing in the copper for recycling. Colorado has a task force of police, metal recyclers, utilities and others that share information in an effort to catch copper thieves.

Other states have stricter laws. California requires fingerprinting sellers and a waiting period of three days before they can collect money.

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