The Washington Post

Keep an eye on your copper wire

It was not the crime of the century.

James Anthony Price and Anthony Joseph Tate are not accused of stealing the Hope Diamond. They didn’t knock off a casino. The Prince George’s contractors allegedly stole copper wiring from a Pepco truck — $70,000 worth, according to the Gazette.

You might be thinking, “Why would someone steal copper wire?” I was. I mean, when thieves do chest bumps and clang glasses of Merlot to toast their scores, I never imagine them going, “Dude, we got so much copper wire.”

Not stolen: Kate Middleton’s engagement ring. (AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Cliche on the loose: Copper wire is a hot commodity. It’s 100 percent recyclable, which makes it, from a criminal perspective, easy to flip. And look at this chart of copper prices over the past five years. It was well under $2 in 2008, but it tops $4 now.

To thank: stimulus projects, a recovering economy (in some places) and new home construction picking up. All of those homes need new air conditioners and other appliances.

A quick Google search reveals a veritable copper wire crime wave. Near Pittsburgh, thieves recently stole hundreds of feet of copper wire — from utility poles! Two California men recently got jail time for stealing copper wire from construction sites. In Phoenix, thieves mangled an air conditioner at a church for its copper wire — twice, in the same month.

“It’s a church,” one church member told a Phoenix TV station. “Come on, you’ve got to draw the line somewhere.”

Not with copper. It’s the new diamond.

Michael Rosenwald is a reporter on the Post's local enterprise team. He writes about the intersection of technology, business and culture.

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