Thursday, July 26, 2007

Secure Your Gutters!

(All emphases by Always On Watch)

And while you're at it, secure your doorknobs and the catalytic converter on your car's exhaust system. From this July 25, 2007 article in the Washington Post:
Soaring prices for salvaged metals, driven by a global demand in Asian markets, have turned scrap into the new gold for the sticky-fingered set, leading to spikes in an array of property crimes in the Washington area and elsewhere. Manhole covers, beer kegs, light poles, air-conditioning units and even catalytic converters -- valued for the small amount of platinum they contain -- have been targeted to feed a $65 billion domestic scrap-recycling industry.
Portions of the article defy belief, but apparently the thefts have been documented:
On several occasions this month, thieves dug up hundreds of feet of underground copper cable used to illuminate ball fields in Anne Arundel County, forcing the organizers of a youth baseball tournament to reschedule a half-dozen games. "We got hit three times in eight days," said Ray Fox, president of the Linthicum Ferndale Youth Athletic Association.

In Northern Virginia this year, crime reports are peppered with metal thefts. Among them: bronze cemetery flower vases and stainless-steel construction edging stolen in Fairfax County, copper gutters and tubing taken in Loudoun and aluminum siding removed from a yard in Prince William.

Thieves in recent weeks have crawled under cars to cut out their catalytic converters, a component of a vehicle emissions system, in a parking lot in the Annapolis area and a junkyard in Howard County.

With the price of aluminum near a 20-year high last summer, someone carted away the bleacher seats at the District's Fort Greble Field, home to Ballou Senior High School's baseball team.
Some of the thieves have met their demise in the course of the thefts:
In some cases, thieves have put themselves in great danger by stealing live electrical wires from buildings. A 41-year-old man was electrocuted this month in a vacant building in Pasadena, and a 47-year-old man was killed while stripping wire from a D.C. school last year. In the past year, about two dozen people have been killed across the country while trying to steal metals, according to news accounts.

Pepco spokesman Robert Dobkin said thieves in search of copper broke into the utility's substations eight times in the past year. "It's a commodity and they want to cash in on it, but our concern is injury," Dobkin said. "It's one thing to steal copper wire from a yard, and it's another thing to break into a substation with live electricity."
What kind of moron breaks into a power substation and fools around with high-voltage wires?

Rising prices of certain metals have led to the increase in these thefts:
Because booming economies in such nations as China and India require massive quantities of metal, the market principles of supply and demand have made metal theft far more profitable than it once was. Copper traded for $3.35 a pound in June, a more than fourfold increase over its price in 2003. Platinum traded this month at about $1,300 a troy ounce, more than twice its value five years ago -- fueling the criminal appetite for catalytic converters.
The following graphic depicts the changes in the prices of certain metals (Click on the image to enlarge it):
Photo credit

Horror of horrors for some! The recent wave in thefts may even affect the price of beer as keg distributors will be charging more for a deposit on the kegs:
Metal bandits watch prices closely, of course, including those for stainless steel. In April, Ernest Vinson of Landover was charged in Charles County with the theft of as many as 35 empty beer kegs snatched from behind two Waldorf restaurants, an Applebee's and an Outback Steakhouse.


Some beer distributors have sought to protect themselves by increasing the deposits keg beer buyers plunk down for the kegs, which is traditionally as little as $10. The thinking is that people will keep them tightly secured.

I guess the good news is that the stolen kegs were empty.

Batten down the hatches around your home, your car, and the cemeteries where your loved ones are buried — if thieves haven't carted away the hatches, that is.

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posted by Always On Watch @ 7/26/2007 07:17:00 AM