Copper Theft: Behind the Scenes

Nov 26, 2014

So, what’s up with this copper theft escapade? What is actually going on behind the scenes of copper embezzlement?

Copper thieves partake in an extremely risky and dangerous activity. In hopes of getting their hands on valuable metal, they most commonly target electrical substations, cell towers, phone landlines, railroads, water wells, construction sites, and vacant homes. The robbers cut the copper at short lengths of two to six feet and then strip it of its plastic coating because raw copper is more valuable. Once they’ve done their damage and accumulated as much copper as they can, they sell it to recyclers for a high profit.

However, in doing this, thieves are putting themselves at extreme risk of deep trouble with law enforcement, electric shock, and even death.

So why would these criminals put their lives on the line just for some extra metal?

Turns out, selling copper has the potential to be profitable. With the demand for copper rising, the probable money gain is too much for copper thieves to turn down. The falling economy and increase demand for copper only provides greater temptation for thieves.

While copper theft may occasionally result in benefits for the thieves, it always results in devastation for the community. Because of the damaged caused by stolen wire, the community faces several unexpected costs including original AND replacement wire, lost revenue from outages and service disruptions, and increased insurance rates. In addition, utility companies face negative public opinions from customers and the public.

Did You Know?:

  • About 95% of utility companies report frequent copper theft crimes at an estimated annual cost of $60 million.
  • 96% of reported metal theft is copper.
  • There has been a 500% increase in the price of copper from 2001-2008.
  • $1 billion is the estimated annual cost of copper theft to economy.

- Whitney Agan