Copper theft is in the news again after new statistics show that it’s grown into a $1 billion dollar-a-year crime business in North America alone. And it’s still growing.
Most experts trace the problem back to the recession, when thieves started targeting foreclosed homes and stealing all the copper pipes and wiring to sell for scrap. But today, thieves are also stealing copper from grave sites, railroads, cellular towers and power plants. They’re even climbing utility poles and stealing the copper power lines that carry electricity into our homes. And there’s a case in Utah where thieves recently stole six miles of copper wire from a highway construction site. That’s a big deal when you consider that just one copper wire the length of a football field is easily worth $500 dollars.
Until recently, part of the problem was that copper was hard to trace and easy to sell in scrap yards. But that’s changing because four states recently passed laws requiring all scrap yards to keep exact customer records on copper sales and purchases, like taking pictures of everything they buy and logging names and addresses.
So what can you do to help fight copper theft?
First: If you have copper pipes and plumbing in your home, experts say paint it white. That way it’ll look like plastic to thieves.
And consider installing an alarm system. Put the signs and stickers in prominent spots so the thieves will go somewhere else. And arm the access to your crawl space, basement and attic, where thieves typically go looking for copper.