MetalTheft.Net has just published a new interview with Aiden Sidebottom, lead author of the recent article "Theft in Price-Volatile Markets: On the Relationship between Copper Price and Copper Theft" published in the latest issue of the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency. It is the second in MetalTheft.Net’s Interview Series. 

Here’s a brief excerpt from the interview:

“We found support for the price-theft hypothesis, i.e. increases in copper prices were significantly associated with increases in copper cable theft. Alternative explanations concerning changes in U.K. unemployment levels or theft of personal property were found to hold no meaningful relationship with the volume of cable thefts…

...One of the interesting features of metal theft is that compared to common targets for theft such as cash, jewelry or mobile phones, metal offers little in terms of inherent enjoyment or utility. Offenders have to dispose of metals to yield its value. This has implications for prevention given the places where offenders can dispose of metals is largely limited to scrap metal dealers. In the case of copper cable theft, rather than trying to reduce opportunities for theft across an entire railway network, determining ways to disrupt metal markets so as to make it harder for offenders to sell stolen metals seems a more promising strategy. This is consistent with the Market Reduction Strategy synonymous with the work of Mike Sutton. It refers to various methods - gathering and using intelligence to detect and investigate suspect businesses dealing with stolen goods; enforcing local legislation to ensure proper records are maintained about the provenance or sellers of secondhand goods; test selling to check compliance with legislation – to try and make the buying and selling of stolen goods more risky.

The MetalTheft.Net Interview Series was created to foster a public dialog on metal theft to increase understanding of the problem and produce effective policy and practice recommendations. Click here for the full interview PDF.

On August 22, 1906, the San Francisco Call reported “An attempt to steal the cable of the Pacific States Telephone Company on Jessie street on Monday night resulted in several hundred phones south of market street being put out of commission temporarily and also in the arrest of…two 17-year-old boys, who were arraigned yesterday morning before Police Judge Morgan.
The arrested youth deny all responsibility of trying to steal the cable but admit that they were taking brass fixtures from the cellar of a building at the corner of Sixth and Jessie streets.”

Two employees of the Selma (CA) Public Works Department have been arrested on charges of embezzlement and possession of stolen property for stealing metal from the city's public works yard, according to the Central Valley Business Times. Suspecting the metals might be stolen, workers at a scrap yard contacted the Sheriff's department, and deputies arrested the two city employees along with a third partner who was on bail while committing this new felony. Selma, Newport News, Nuangola, Stamford, Houston, St. Clair Shores, Topeka... the list of cities with employees/officials caught stealing metal continues to grow.

Any city manager not auditing its public works department at this point is arguably neglecting a real potential for problems.
MetalTheft.Net is compiling a photographic record of the damage caused by metal theft.
If you have pictures of the metal theft aftermath (e.g., homes stripped of their aluminum siding, the inside of a house where thieves "unzipped" all the walls  from outlet to ceiling by ripping the copper wires right up and out, an air conditioner wrecked for its copper, etc.). Please send it to us, and if we can use it on our website, we'll send you a free " it's come to this" bumper sticker. 
Send your metal theft photos to along with permission to post them on MetalTheft.Net. If we do, you get a free bumper sticker telling the world you're sick of this problem.
In an August 16, 1908 article about a failed general strike of all trades and industries in Paris, the New York Daily Tribune decried the leader of France’s General Syndicate (or General Confederation of Labor or Confederation General du Travail), M. Ricordeau for, among other things, stealing copper wire from an electrical works. Indeed, the paper called him a “refugee from justice, having been condemned some time ago for stealing copper wire from an electrical works.” The article goes on to state “It was no doubt the fear that the government had of him which enabled him to escape so long from serving his sentence of four months in prison.” Not to worry though, a new sentence of six months imprisonment for “inciting to armed rebellion,” the paper states, means the earlier four month copper theft sentence will also be tacked on to run consecutively.

On August 9, 1907, the Los Angeles Herald reported “Henry Buchanan, who is alleged to have wrecked a $300 electric motor [approx. $7,000 today] in the shops of the Adams Pipe company in order to steal $50 [$1,200] worth of copper wire, was arrested early yesterday morning while leaving the shop with the wire.”

MetalTheft.Net recently corresponded with Eric M. Hutchinson, CEO of Copper and Metal Theft Mitigation Experts. The company uses surveillance techniques and GPS tracking to prevent or respond to metal thefts.

"When someone asks us for help, we supply a whole package - from start to finish," Hutchinson says. "We meet with local law enforcement and keep them in the loop... We set up a bait operation - and since we know what they are after - it’s pretty easy.  Using the psychology of the criminal, we can profile their entry and exit - and give them what they want. It’s like a criminal case on a platter - spoon fed. Everyone enjoys working with us since we make the case open and shut.”

Hutchinson claims a 97% arrest rate, and a 100% conviction rate. "I think we are pretty good at what we do."

But if the thief gets away with a client's copper, the material is still marked to facilitate recovery from metal recyclers who may unknowingly - or knowingly - buy stolen metals.

"We have identified bad scrap dealers in the past with our technology - one of them accepted a brand new roll of 4/0 copper wire, never used, still shrink wrapped, and with a "ship to" label of one of the local utility companies. Even my 5-year-old could tell it was stolen."

"On a typical operation of ours - when the spool is stolen, we are able to respond and have them stopped and in custody - on average, in about 6 minutes.  No time for them to even get into the scrap yard.  We work with companies around the country who have ongoing issues at the same place time and time again.  

“Our statistics also show that when we catch one person, they are responsible for 80+% of the problem in the area.  The old adage that 10% of the people cause 90% of the problem is so very true in metal thefts.”

Hutchinson can be contacted toll free at 1-888-292-8119 or by email at 

MetalTheft.Net works hard to provide information on what others are doing to reduce metal theft. If you represent a company or law enforcement agency doing something that is working, we'd love to hear about it. 

Just email us at and share your "best practices."

New Mexico's Monthly Metal Theft Report for July 2011 is now available on MetalTheft.Net's Law Enforcement/Prevention page. The report includes coverage of a continuing trend of battery thefts. Click here for a link to the pdf.
On August 1, 1902, two Akron, OH police officers broke up a “gang of very small boys who have been stealing brass and copper and other metal and selling it to junk dealers.” Victims of the boys included, among others, an apple butter factory, which suffered $200 in damages [approx. $5,000 today] when the boys wrecked machines to steal brass for which junk yards paid them a few cents, and a casino that lost 20 pounds of copper wire which the boys sold to a junk yard “for a mere trifle.”

The Akron Daily Democrat reported “The Mayor believes that the junk dealers have been more to blame in the matter than the boys themselves and he delivered himself very strenuously to Isador Brust, a dealer who was arraigned Friday morning and charged with buying from a minor. Brust became very uncomfortable and mopped his forehead vigorously during the address at the close of which he was fined $50 and costs…

"The Mayor is determined that w wholesome regard for the law be inspired among the dealers who have been buying articles from children, notices containing sections of the revised statutes applying to such cases will be sent to all pawn shops, peddlers and gatherers of junk [scrap yards].”

The three young boys were charged with several thefts and bound over for probate court.