Copper’s High Value Attracts More Thieves
The theft of copper—long an issue to distributors when the price of the material spikes—has become a major concern for officials both inside and outside the supply chain. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that copper thefts cost business and industry over $1 billion annually, reports the Copper and Brass Servicenter Association, Overland Park. Kan.
In recent months, copper wire theft from the base of traffic lights has resulted in 100 signals going dark and leaving 25,000 people without power in Rialto, Calif., while a major theft ring was broken up in Atlanta.
On August 18, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned that copper thefts from critical infrastructure and key resource sectors have doubled from 2010. The most targeted sectors are energy, transportation, commercial facilities, communications, agriculture and food, dams and water. Schools, churches and vacant homes have also been targeted.
According to the United States Fire Administration, these thefts can “degrade electricity and communications, impede emergency response times, and make it difficult for first responders to work effectively. Additionally, these thefts create dangers for emergency personnel by exposing live electrical wires, disrupting critical telecommunications and creating hazards with damaged rail switches, etc.”
Officials around the world, including the United States, are changing their laws to make copper theft a more serious felony offense. They are also calling on scrap yard operators to be more vigilant about whom they buy scrap from and the source of the material—which complicates scrap yard operations. Indeed, this is an issue the scrap recycling industry has been battling for years.
One way the industry is cooperating is by providing www.ScrapTheftAlert.com. Developed by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, ScrapTheftAlert.com is an online tool that allows law enforcement to notify the scrap industry by e-mail of significant thefts of materials in the United States and Canada.
“We can only make an impact if all the affected parties work together,” says Jerry Simms, vice president of Atlas Metal Sales, a former CBSA board member and current chairman-elect of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries.