As House Prices Tumble, Homes Are Picked Apart for Scrap

April 03, 2008 01:09 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Copper pipes are stolen in a rash of home break-ins across the country, as foreclosures rise and the price of metals reaches record highs.

30-Second Summary

In the areas suffering from the most foreclosures, the copper and other metals used in plumbing, heating and telephone systems are now more valuable than the homes themselves, reports Reuters.

The problem has gotten so bad that at least 15 states have drafted legislation, which includes tighter regulations on scrap metal traders and tougher penalties for metal theft, to deal with the issue.

Scrap metal sells for about $3.50 a pound, although it sold for only 70 cents just three years ago.

Experts attribute the rise in copper prices to worldwide economic growth. Slate reports that demand for copper is a viable indicator of economic conditions, given copper’s prominence in construction, electronics, industry and transportation.

For the commodity-minded thief, the boom in metal prices has presented an new opportunity.

In Southern California copper thieves are destroying freeway streetlamps to get at the copper wire and leaving roadways in the dark.

According to U.K. newspaper The Guardian, copper theft accounted for 240,000 minutes of delays for British train passengers last year, as thieves hit tracks and depots looking to score the valuable metal.

Headline Links: ‘Some Homes Worth Less than their Copper Pipes’

Related Topics: Copper theft

Background: Copper’s rise

Opinions & Analysis: Copper, a good economic indicator

Reference: The London Metal Exchange


Most Recent Beyond The Headlines