Tuesday, July 24, 2007
A local newspaper not far from here published this story yesterday on how surging commodity prices are affecting the behavior of some profit-seekers the Motherlode - there appears to be a "Copper Rush" here in Gold Country.
Local copper theft rules are proposedBetween here and the Modesto Junk Co. is a construction boomtown (at least up until this year) called Copperopolis, imaginatively named for what they once pulled out of the ground with a pick and a shovel but which now arrives and leaves on a spool.
By MICHAEL KAY
After the defeat of a California bill that aimed to curb the copper thefts that have plagued farms and construction sites across the state, a coalition has drafted a version for local governments.
The rise in thefts is believed to be driven by copper's price, which has risen from around 60 cents per pound in early 2003 to about $3.75 per pound today, according to kitcometals.com, a metal retailer.
Copper theft is rampant in Tuolumne County, with up to eight incidents being reported to the Sheriff's Office each month.
"And most of them don't get reported," said Sheriff's Lt. Dan Bressler.
A $30,000 spool of copper wire taken from the Moccasin Point Marina late last year was perhaps the largest single take, but in recent months 500-foot spools of wire have been stolen from a handful of homes and construction sites.
"They'll pull thousands of feet of wire out of the ground, they'll take spools of copper wiring from construction sites, they'll take anything they think has copper in it," Bressler said.
But can recyclers tell whether the product is stolen?
"That's one of the difficulties with scrap metal. There's no bar code on it," said Keith Highiet, one of four family members who run Modesto Junk Co.
The company requires valid car plates, driver's licenses and a checkable source for the metal, which leads it to turn away about five customers each hour. But the criminals do not have to go far.
"People can go down the street, or they can go across county lines or to a different city and they don't have the same kind of guidelines," Highiet said. "The price is at a level where it makes economic sense for people to drive 20, 30, 40 miles to get rid of it."
Geez, next thing you know they'll be stealing milk crates!