In Dallas and its suburbs, thieves desperately hunt for copper and other metals fetching higher prices at recycling yards, says the Dallas Morning News. They destroy street lights and air-conditioning units, irrigation systems and household plumbing, telephone wiring, and electrical transformers. “This crime is a commodity, profit-driven crime, with the price of copper so high that people are willing to risk arrest to do the crime,” said Dallas police Lt. Richard Dwyer. Metal theft is a complicated problem driven by persistent thieves whose crimes can be nearly impossible to trace and who shrug off the consequences – fines or relatively little jail time.
Justin Rinehart, 28, was arrested for two burglaries in two months at Dallas homes in 2006 after stealing one air-conditioning unit and parts from another. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven months in jail. Then he returned to his trade undeterred; he has been arrested three times this year on charges including metal theft. In 2006, Dallas police reported 2,415 metal thefts. In 2007, they reported 3,339. And through the first three months of this year, police reported 691. John Davis, a Lake Highlands dentist, said he has lost five air-conditioning units in the last six months.