According to the Los Angeles Times, methamphetamine addiction and rapid growth in China are two of the main reasons behind a recent upsurge in copper thefts nationwide.
Police say thieves, most of them addicts, are getting increasingly brash in their thefts, now stealing anything they can get their hands on, including fire hydrants, buried phone cables, the wire used in power-generating windmills, telephone wires and spools of copper weighing up to 1,000 pounds. The booty is typically sold at recycling plants and from there shipped within a day to China.
"The thieves are getting more sophisticated," said Sgt. Dennis Gutierrez, a spokesman for the Riverside County Sheriff's Department in California. "We had some come out from Walnut to strip wire from windmills in the desert. They are driving around in white vans so people think they are workers."
Thieves are even cutting down telephone poles with chain saws to reach wires, Gutierrez said. "The one common denominator we have noticed is that they are meth users. ... They are awake at all times, walking around like zombies."