Steal the Pipes, Ditch the House

As metal prices soar and housing prices dives, thieves find value in copper
By Clay Dillow,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 2, 2008 3:04 PM CDT
Chinese migrant workers collect scrapped metals for recycling. Demand in China and India have driven the price of nonferrous metals skyward.   (Getty Images (by Event))
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – Rising metal prices have rendered some foreclosed homes worth less than their plumbing, and thieves are stripping the vacant abodes of copper, aluminum, and brass to fuel a lucrative overseas trade. Several states have hardened penalties for metal theft, but skyrocketing nonferrous metals prices have thieves risking steel cages for copper pipes, reports Reuters.

Copper prices have increased five-fold over the past three years, and many scrap traders estimate more than 80% goes to feed the booming development in India and China. Meanwhile, the subprime mortgage crunch has left empty houses an easy mark: In Cleveland, some boarded-up houses are marked "No copper, only PVC" to deter would-be crooks.