A rash of copper thefts continues in Northwest Philadelphia

On Aug 9, 2011 thieves stole 30 feet of a copper wire from the 7300 block of N. 20th Street. The 14th Police District in Northwest Philadelphia sees about two or three reported copper thefts per-week. These are recent copper thefts all in the 14th District, which includes Chestnut Hill, Mt. Airy and Germantown.

7/26/11 – Unit block E. Johnson St – Copper pipes were stolen.

7/20/11 – 200 block W. Haines St – Copper wire was stolen from home under renovation.

7/19/11 – 1100 block E. Price St. – Attempted theft of copper pipes from a foreclosed home. Cops caught this guy in the act.

7/19/11 – 6800 block Chew Ave. – Copper pipes were stolen.

7/19/11 – 6600 block Ross St. – Copper pipes were stolen.

7/17/11 – 6700 block Woolston Ave. – Copper pipes were stolen from a vacant home.


What’s driving this?

Copper theft has long been a problem but the rising price for this metal has led to more problems. In 2006 copper sold for around $2 per pound but this year it topped $4. The FBI stated in a 2008 report that copper theft was so widespread in the U.S. that it poses a threat to our infrastructure:

Copper thieves are threatening US critical infrastructure by targeting electrical sub-stations, cellular towers, telephone land lines, railroads, water wells, construction sites, and vacant homes for lucrative profits.

The report gives many examples of how copper thefts can create serious problems:

Five tornado warning sirens in Jackson, Mississippi did not warn residents of an approaching tornado because copper thieves had stripped the sirens of copper wiring, thus rendering them inoperable.

The FBI says that thieves typically sell their copper to recyclers who then resell to scrap metal collectors. The next stop is often a big smelter and the copper is reborn shiny and new. The FBI outlook for copper thefts is grim. The report states that it only expect copper demand to rise in the years with China and India consuming most of it. 


So what’s a penny worth melted down?

A website called coininflation.com has a metals value calculator. If its calculations are correct, it says that a penny is worth more than two-cents melted down. So technically speaking a thief could save up his pennies and double his money.

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