Copper thefts ‘definitely getting worse’

Angela Martin was devastated when she and her husband discovered a 100-year-old home they had been renovating on their property had been gutted.

The culprits, she says, were after copper. She describes fixings being torn and smashed, all the copper pulled from the wreckage of the house.

“The theft made us feel ill,” the Prince Edward County farmer said. “This incident has caused us to be so suspicious of everyone. … Because we live in a rural area, we’re an easier target.”

When she called the police, they told her roughly 48 other crimes of the same nature had been reported in the area, Martin said.

Investigators dusted for fingerprints but, she said, to her knowledge the thieves were never caught.

According to U.S. commodities exchange COMEX, the price for copper has almost doubled in three years, from about $2 per pound to just under $4 per pound.

And copper thefts are on the rise.

“It’s definitely getting worse,” OPP Det. Sgt. David Light said.

But how are thieves selling stolen copper without being caught?

“There may very well be dis-credible scrap metal dealers out there that would buy it,” Light said. “But for the most part they probably separate it, or try to get it in their loads with other scrap metal so it wouldn’t be so obvious.”

Many copper thefts occur at construction sites, hydro sites, scrap yards and transformer stations, all dangerous places for thieves to operate, especially when dealing with electrical grounding wires, he said.

“There’s the definite possibility of injury or death,” Light said.

Still, the reward seems to outweigh the risks. In February, seven Toronto men were arrested in connection to the theft of $50,000-worth of copper from an Hydro One facility in Etobicoke, CTVNews.ca reported.