Scrap Metal Theft
Scrap metal theft has been on the rise and has been a menace to people, governments, and corporations across the world for decades. They will steal anything from steel rails to copper wire from electric lines. The damage they leave behind costs billions of dollars to repair. Recently, demand for scrap metal has increased. One attribute to this is the rising demand for artistic creations made using scrap metal. Artisans and blacksmiths have created a new trend of art ranging from sculptures to other complex works of art, using scrap metal as their raw materials. Such art is catching a lot of attention locally and internationally consequently increasing the demand for scrap metal. Scrap metal is becoming more valuable each day.
The common cause of scrap metal theft is poverty. In some countries it is perpetrated by the homeless and the unemployed – people that have no alternative way of earning a living. However, this is not exclusive. Some factory workers steal metals left as wastage from the manufacturing process. They then sell it at scrap yards which do not get enough of it because of the high demand.
Nonferrous scrap metals are more likely to get stolen due to their high prices than ferrous metals. These include copper, aluminum, and brass. On 5 Oct 2016, the price of scrapped No. 1 copper ranged between $1.938/LB and $1.909/LB in the US depending on different states while that of cast iron ranged between $0.02/LB and $0.035/LB. This big difference in price and emphasizes the fact that nonferrous metals are more likely to get stolen. Copper and aluminum are highly valued by blacksmiths since they are easy to work with and do not rust. Molding them into valuable artistic items is easy. This increases the demand for these scrap metals and consequently, their prices.
The price difference which we saw above doesn’t mean that ferrous scrap metals never get stolen. In fact, the number of thefts utility hole covers, usually made of cast iron, has increased recently. One manhole cover, even if made of cheap cast iron, will weigh as much as 25 lbs, hence the rise in theft incidents.
Nonetheless, copper and aluminum remain the most attractive for the thieves due to their profitability. Some scrap dealers have gone to the extent of cutting cables due to the high demand. The US government has put in place laws to curb the theft of nonferrous scrap metals due to the enormous losses it incurs every year. Metal Recycling companies are supposed to demand receipts every time a person wants to cash in nonferrous metal. They are also expected to tag suspicious merchandise for at least two weeks awaiting any claim.