While gold prices have skyrocketed, a less glamorous metal has also gone way up in price and become the target of thieves across the state. Copper, which is used in plumbing and wiring, is over four dollars a pound and Cedar Rapids police spokesperson Cristy Hamblin says thieves have been bold about stealing it.
“They know no boundaries, because in 2010 we’ve had just a very sharp, almost triple the amount, we’ve had 73 reported cases of copper theft,” Hamblin says. Copper thieves were brazen enough to cut part of the wiring at the Vineyard Church of Cedar Rapids while a church service was underway.
Sergeant Hamblin says abandoned homes have typically been a target of copper thieves, but she says the recent thefts have gone well beyond that. “They are in new construction sites or in businesses as well,” Hamblin says, “and they’re stealing spools of copper, or they’ll go into the businesses you know and steal things that are made of copper. But with that sharp increase in the price of copper, we’re seeing just a vast increase.”
Cedar Rapids is just one example of the copper thefts, property of the University of Northern Iowa, a Waterloo elementary school, and, in one instance, live telephone wire have all been recent targets. Two men were arrested in Des Moines Sunday and accused of stealing copper from flooded homes.
Police say it’s tough to track the metal once it is stolen and that hurts efforts to combat the thefts. They expect thieves to keep stealing copper as long as the price for the metal remains high.