February 27, 2008 Meth, metal theft linked
Metals thefts and methamphetamine users have a definite relationship. And as world-wide demand surpasses metal availability, the value of such things as copper, aluminum, platinum, stainless steel, and any other precious metals have increased enough to make them very attractive for one of these thieves to abscond with. Aluminum cans have long been a mainstay of survival for urban outdoorsmen and drug addicts. Now, with the increased value of these metals, the aluminum can collectors seem to have hit a much more valuable source of income. The problem is that aluminum can collection is, in most instances, a legal activity. Stripping wire from electrical conduit, stealing aluminum siding from abandoned homes, removing copper pipes and brass valves from property is a crime.
To the victims of these thefts, the wire itself may have some value, but the damage and replacement/installation costs are much more expensive. Wire theft from an electrically-controlled sprinkler system may net the thief $50 at the local recycler, but the replacement and repair cost for the victim may be thousands of dollars. Metal thieves are also targeting catalytic converters from cars parked overnight in neighborhoods and parking lots. These catalytic converters contain small amounts of platinum, but apparently enough to make the theft worthwhile.
Thieves themselves, of course, are fully responsible and accountable for their crimes. But, they would not have an outlet if it weren't for the unscrupulous metal recycling companies. Not all recyclers are buying stolen property from the metal thieves, but enough are such that both supply and demand are being met. Metal thieves in our area are mostly limited to riding bicycles or traveling on foot. It is not likely that they are able to travel long distances to neighboring counties to sell their wares. These thefts and recycler purchases are taking place right here in our own area. There may be the added complication to this equation of persons doing business out of the back of pick-up trucks who, once they acquire enough stolen items, travel to another county to sell the metals. Nevertheless, we are quite sure that [some] recyclers in this area are knowingly or unwittingly buying metals that have been stolen from innocent victims.
The state, county and local communities have been working on new laws to make it harder for metal thieves to ply their trade. These new laws are aimed at holding the recyclers accountable with more documentation of their sources, and by disallowing the larger cash payouts to persons selling these metals. I think these new measures are necessary and helpful. However, unless all recyclers are held to the same standards, ostensibly by statewide laws, the thieves will always manage to find a way to sell their stolen goods.
It is a shame that our society has "grown" such a big problem that scores of drug-addicted people are on the streets. As these people try to eke out a living just to survive and to support their drug habit, they turn to most any means to get by. It seems that the consequence for the rest of society is that anything with any value at all, and that which is not locked or bolted down, will be stolen. We can create new laws and arrest them all, but it will not eliminate the problem. We have to find a way to get these people off drugs, and guide them into productive lives. So far, the success rate has been poor, so the problem grows. In the meantime, I suggest that you use prevention techniques to keep your property safe and as thief-proof as possible. You can call your local police department for theft prevention tips. I wish you security in your property, and I hope we soon find a solution to the drug addiction problem.