09 June 2010

Metal Thievery Evolves, in Scale and in Technique

Published: May 14, 2010

PIERCE, Colo. — Scrap metal thieves are not known for sophistication. From drug addicts in the 1970s ripping copper plumbing from walls to scrap-yard regulars of more recent years who proffer whatever fell off a truck, stealing hunks of coil or reinforcing bar has mostly been about having a strong back and a willingness to get dirty, law enforcement experts say.

...Metal crime is being nudged into the 21st century by technology, high commodity prices and bad economic times, law enforcement officials and insurance experts say.

“Before, it was go check the pawnshops and scrap yards,” said Jim Sauerwein, a senior investigator for the Harvey County Sheriff’s Office in south-central Kansas. “Now it’s picture phones, the Internet and eBay.”

The metabolism of the market for stolen metal has accelerated as well, Mr. Sauerwein said. His rule of thumb in tracing a theft these days is that whatever is stolen has probably changed hands as many as four times within 48 hours of its disappearance.

...Scrap metal dealers are feeling the heat as well, in preventing thefts on their own property — some have recently hired 24-hour guards — and in protecting themselves from legal trouble for buying stolen property. One big problem is that metal in hunks or coils or machinery in pieces is generic and hard to track.

Full article is here.


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