A 300 per cent increase in the price of copper has led to metal theft becoming the fastest-growing crime in the UK.
Criminals sell the cable on to scrap dealers who ship it abroad.
An epidemic of thefts is thought to have cost British Telecom several million pounds already this year.
Last week thieves tore up manhole covers near Esher, Surrey, and got away with underground phone lines worth about £70,000.
We then get a series of stories about other thefts of copper cable.
Now, agreed, people do steal copper cable to sell for scrap. Yes, this can be very profitable. Yes, there are scrap dealers out there who will pay cash no questions asked. Heck, if you\’re happy to pay tax on the sale then I could point you to hundreds who would happily buy stuff in warehouse Rotterdam and wire the money wherever you ask.
However, those numbers look rather odd.
Current copper price is around £5,000 a tonne. So if scrap (which it ain\’t) were worth the cathode price we\’re expected to believe that those raiders nicked 14 tonnes of copper wire. Or some mindboggling number of miles of copper wire.
Add in the discount for covered wire as opposed to cathode copper and we\’re more likely talking about 28-30 tonnes of wire being nicked.
What they\’ve done here is take the replacement cost of the wire as their estimate of value, not the value of what the used wire can be sold for.
Yes, it happens, yes, it\’s real, but just as with those estimates of drug shipment values: they\’re taking the highest possible value of the goods, not what they\’d actually get sold for.
BTW, if you\’re thinking of this as a career option, one piece of advice. Try and work out a way of ensuring that the power supply is off before thieving. Those that don\’t tend to have short careers.