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Copper in demand and in short supply, so thefts increase

Published 11:00pm Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The recent theft of more than 1,300 feet of copper wire from a Pike County farm is just another example of what some have called an epidemic sweeping the nation.

Michael Sanders says thieves took the copper wire from his farm’s irrigation system, and replacing wiring and repairing the damage done to the system will cost up to $20,000. A $10,000 reward is being offered from Alfa Insurance, and perhaps that will be enough to prompt someone to share information about the theft.

But maybe not.

Copper is an incredibly valuable commodity and thieves are stealing it anywhere they can: farms, construction sites, electrical power stations in Kansas, and even middle-class homes in New Jersey. Experts estimate copper theft is a $1 billion business in the United States.

The stolen copper is being sold for scrap and is so valuable because copper is used in everything from plumbing to fiber optics. Ten years ago, copper futures traded at 80 cents a pound; in 2006, those futures were $4 per pound; now, they are $3 per pound.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau reported than 13,861 claims of metal theft were filed between 2009 and 2012, and nearly 96 percent of those were for copper theft.
It’s in demand and in rare supply, so copper is quickly become a target of thieves across the nation and right here in Pike County.

Locally, farms are a frequent target, particularly since the farms often have remote or isolated areas which allow thieves to work with little fear of being observed or caught.

While law enforcement agencies work diligently to resolve theft cases, curtailing the spreading crimes ultimately will depend on solid information and a public willing to help. Let’s hope this latest reward offering will prompt someone to share some insight and information that helps get these copper thieves off the streets so our farmers can get back to work.

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