See today's report by Staff Writer Paul Bourgeois.
Copper has a hot commodity for thieves in recent years, resulting in a wide range of thefts, frequently the copper tubing from air conditioning units, like the ones pictured in this photo from Star-Telegram archives.
Some thieves, however, have scaled power poles to cut away copper wiring; a few consequently met gruesome deaths by electrocution.
Staff Writer Mark Agee recently reported that "construction sites have been hit hard, as have large buildings whose big air conditioners are copper-rich, such as schools and churches. Thirteen rooftop air conditioners from the Fort Worth school district were mined for copper last year, and the burglars did $54,000 in damage."
But why copper?
Do a spot check on the New York Mercantile Exchange and you'll see why. The price per pound for copper has tripled since 2003 when it cost about $1. Today it's around $3 a pound.
Analysts say world-wide demand for nonferrous metals, including copper, has accelerated.
Reuters recently reported that China and its ever-growing economy are expected to consume 4.95 million metric tons of refined copper in 2008. By comparison, China consumed 3.9 million metric tons last year.
But crime resulting from the copper shortage isn't just a North Texas Problem.
The Associated Press recently reported earlier this year that Italian police confiscated more than half a ton of copper piled in the woods outside Turin. The thefts from rail facilities delayed trains because they hurt automatic signal systems, forcing crews to use slower, manual systems.
Meanwhile, back in Tarrant County, municipalities have changed ordinances to combat the problem. For example, Agee reported, the North Richland Hills City Council recently agreed to allow plastic water-distribution piping to thwart copper thefts from construction sites. Fort Worth now requires scrap yards to keep records of whom they buy from.
-- Bill Miller