Copper Theft, America’s Favorite Crime

“So what if this is a live power station, I’m gonna get this copper wire if it kills m…”

~Last words of this fucker


Discovery and profit are no longer mutually inclusive terms.  In fact, as the world gets larger in population but smaller in innovation, the concept of striking it rich and encountering unforeseeable treasures becomes increasingly fantastical.  Gone is the thrill of Magellan’s exploration of uncharted land, increasingly improbable is the opportunistic zeal of the California Gold Rush.

But Americans love adventure, and even more than that, they love earning a lot of money without needing anything as far as “noticeable skill sets” go.  Actually, we don’t even care too much for adventure- mixing alcohol with codeine is all the adventure most of us need for any given weekend- but we do love getting money we don’t earn.  And by that, we mean stealing.  And while you might need some amount of intelligence to con someone, you don’t need to have anything more than a moving truck to earn money in a way that an increasing amount of Americans are (illegally) doing.

Yup, we’re stealing the shit out of copper wire.  And we’re here to salute that.

When you google image search “stealing copper” you see a disturbing amount of charred corpses.  So here’s a picture of a baby bunny rabbit instead.

Copper theft is something that’s engrained in our American DNA, if you think about it.  It’s a way to earn money without earning it (Hi Native Americans!) by taking something that doesn’t belong to you (How’s it going, Native Americans?) through forcible means (No seriously, Native Americans, give us your wallets).  Plus, it sorta looks like gold if you’re drunk enough.

Stealing copper wire is generally low risk, as far as criminality goes.  Most people who get caught only get charged with a misdemeanor, and that’s if they get caught.  During the first half of 2006, Phoenix, Arizona saw 207 instances of copper theft…with one arrest.  So that means, scientifically, you have to be an incredibly idiot to be busted stealing copper wiring.

Copper is a benchmark for electrical wiring since it’s high conductive, malleable, and ductile.  That means you can bend it and shit and it’ll still zap you.  Which is great, because it means copper is in such high demand that recyclers will buy it from you for 85% of its full retail value.  But it’s also a little problematic because true-blooded (cough, redneck) Americans will often just try to dig that shit up, which can lead to power failures and, well, you know, a whole lot of people getting electrocuted to death.  Which proves that it’s very easy to be smart enough not to get arrested for copper theft, while still being stupid enough to get burned to a crisp (literally) by digging a shovel into a live electrical wire.

Seriously, there are more google images of copper thieves burnt to unrecognizable husks than we could have possibly imagined.  This baby panda is waving hello.

How many Americans decide to show their patriotism by robbing the shit out of some copper wire?  While we can’t attest how much the popularity of the crime has been enhanced due to its role in a handful of episodes of Friday Night Lights, we can say that the fact that copper prices have gone from $2.00/lb to $4.00/lb in the past few years has helped lead to the theft of over a billion dollars worth of copper every year.  Seriously.  That means that over 250 million pounds of the stuff is stolen every year by lightworking Americans.  That means, mathematically, every person in America has stolen about a pound of the shit this past year alone.

Given that five people have received Darwin Awards from trying (and failing) to steal copper wire, we can assume that at maybe 10 to 15 of America’s dumbest criminals have fried to death trying to steal copper wires for that sweet, sweet paydirt.  Again, though, we have no idea why google images insists of showing us electrocuted corpses when we’re trying to find pictures of copper wire thefts to put on this article.

Meanwhile, the google image results for “Copper Wire Panda” are much less traumatizing.

While public utilities are the biggest target for copper theft, some people like to say “fuck it” and just steal it from residential houses, which has to be the biggest “fuck you” kind of robbery you can think of.  “Honey, someone broke into the house,” the home owner would gasp.  “Wait, the TV’s still here…same with the ipad…wow, it doesn’t look like they took anything!  Guess we got lucky!  *tries to turn on the lights*  Uh…is there a reason why…nothing is getting electricity anymore?”

We honestly were looking for a relevant picture, but again, like a quarter of the results were charred corpses and electrical burn victims.  So instead, this puppy was all “how YOU doin’?”  Ha, remember Friends?  “Who is Matthew LeBlanc” will make a great Jeopardy question in like, five years.

So for you Americans looking for your next gold rush, look nowhere farther than the nearest public utilities building.  Because those fuckers are filled with copper.  Or abandoned buildings, whatever.  Either way, uh, invest in some rubber gloves, and turn off the damn power first okay?  Seriously.

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