According to the Washington Post, the number of metal thefts, especially copper, is on the rise due to record high sale prices.

Worldwide growth in the construction and electronic industries has raised the price of copper from 83 cents per pound in 2000 to nearly $4 per pound today. There have been thefts at mobile phone towers, baseball fields and construction sites, where thieves steal potentially lethal wires for the metal they contain. Thieves also are targeting local sources of metal, from copper gutters in suburban Maryland to three large bronze sculptures in Brea, Calif.

Washington, D.C., police have reported an 18 percent increase in the number of burglaries in 2008, mostly from construction sites. Several states are considering legislation that would increase the sentences for both the thieves and the scrap dealers who purchase stolen copper. For example, in South Carolina, someone convicted of committing $5,000 worth of damage while stealing copper faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Thirty-five states have either passed or are considering legislation that requires copper dealers to record identifying information for sales above a certain value, said ISRI’s Bruce Savage. ISRI prefers voluntary regulation, including the formation of a national theft-notification network.

The increased attention on copper thieves has led to the emergence of copper dealers who can resell stolen metal to scrap yards because they have a legitimate source of copper.

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