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Scrap metal thefts on the rise due to skyrocketing value

By Matt Kerr

Photo by Matt Kerr. Local scrap yards like Crawford Metal are affected by metal thefts.

Scrap metal thefts have been on the rise in Quinte due to soaring prices.

The prices for scrap metal have risen because of high demand from China and India for cheaper metals. The price of scrap has also been driven up by availability of metals as there is not as much resources as there used to be.

“Copper pricing right now has driven up those thefts because copper is selling for a fairly good dollar right now. The risks and the effort involved seems to be worthwhile for the bad guys,” said OPP constable Kim Guthrie.

According to the OPP scrap metal thefts have two different categories. There are thefts where people will take scrap that has been sitting on a property. The other thefts are where thieves will break into vacant homes or abandoned building and take the copper wiring and piping out of the walls.

“People are looking for the easy find in regards to scrap metal, old appliance, culverts left unattended to be brought in for salvage,” said Guthrie.

Scrap metal theft has also become popular because there is no way to tell the difference between stolen scrap and legitimate scrap. There are no serial numbers that can identify scrap unless an old vehicle is stolen that still had VIN numbers.

“The only thing we can do is get all the information from the individual when they bring the scrap in,” said Michael Cohen from Crawford Metal.

Thefts also frequently occur right off of scrap yard property. Cohen said it happens all the time. Mostly all they find are footprints left from the night before.

The scrap companies in Belleville do not have any communication with each other to ensure that scrap is not being stolen off one yard and sold at another. The possibility of scrap being stolen off one site and sold at the same yard is there because of the lack of information.

Cohen said the average price they pay out for scrap is over $200 per tonne of steel.

Crawford Metals do not process the scrap on site and sends it out to separate mills where it can be recycled.

“What people are looking for are aluminums, coppers anything they can make a quick buck on,” said Bob Bentley of Bentley Heating and Air Conditioning.

These types of thefts are the most devastating for homeowners because they cut out all the drywall and tear apart the house.

The typical places where scrap is targeted are typically rural areas that have old materials sitting in yards.

In Prince Edward County, the thefts were mainly in the southern end of the county because there is less traffic on the roads and there are more seasonal homes. According to OPP, the break and enter thefts occur in either housing development areas or isolated properties. Thieves have more time to work to take the metal out of the walls and ground. Thieves will usually scope out an area first and come back when they see nobody is there to grab whatever they can.