The spike in copper prices has sent scofflaws to new heights, says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Thieves are stripping electric company substations and power poles across southeastern Wisconsin of their copper grounding wires, costing We Energies as much as $300,000 this year alone. The trend is confounding utility officials and police, who are struggling to catch and prosecute offenders. The thieves may be putting themselves in danger of electrocution.
Increased demand, particularly from China and India, has pushed prices on all metals to historic highs this decade. And as individual prices spike, thieves find ever more creative sources of revenue. The price for U.S. scrap copper hit $2.81 a pound on Friday, well above the 70 cents or so it commanded in 2002. “I don’t have to look at the Dow to see what metal is peaking this week,” said Milwaukee police Officer Leo Carter, one of two assigned to the department’s property recovery unit and the point man for all things related to scrap metal thievery.