Q: Why has copper thievery become such a problem now?

A: The cost of scrap metals such as copper has gone up so much that it is no longer “scrap”. In some cases, people resort to very dangerous acts (such as climbing power lines) to steal it; and it takes a lot of collaboration and, sometimes, heavy equipment for them to pull it off. So if you see an unmarked truck or something suspicious-looking at the phone lines, give us a call.
   We made a pretty good arrest in June. One of our covert officers spotted a group of guys on a phone line along Skillman; the guys led officers on a foot chase before catching them. AT&T has been putting alarms on the lines to help alert us to tampering.
   The phone lines are one of the prime targets, and often thefts from phones lines cause outages that affect the surrounding neighborhood. Metal thieves also hone in on homes and businesses that are under construction because they are easy targets. Copper thieves are particularly targeting catalytic converters in vehicles. In an effort to prevent the purchase of stolen car parts, a city ordinance passed in June requires metal recyclers who purchase catalytic converters to maintain information about the seller and provide it to the police department. Other regulations implemented last year give us more authority for inspecting scrap yards and such. Metal theft reports are actually on track to go down this year. Last year, there were 3,400 cases reported citywide, and from January to June 2008, we’ve had 1,600 cases reported.