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Scrap metal thefts are on the rise in Ontario

By Tyson Leonard

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BELLEVILLE, Ont. (10/05/2012) David Miller, a foreman at Crawford Metal Corporation, stands in front of a pile of scrap metal. Photo by Tyson Leonard.

High metal prices and unemployment are being blamed as the cause of a rise in scrap metal thefts in Ontario.

Metals in their basic forms such as copper, iron, and steel have risen in price by 20% between 2005 and 2011. The price increase comes at a time when jobless rates in Ontario are steadily remaining high after the 2008 recession.

Kristine Rae, OPP spokesperson, said there has been an increase in scrap metal thefts over the past few years. In 2010 OPP in the East Region investigated 86 thefts, and in 2011, 141 thefts. As of April 2012, 45 scrap metal thefts have been investigated.

“I think it’s a problem with unemployment,” said Jennifer Jones, the office manager at Crawford Metal Corporation in Belleville.

Crawford is a local scrap metal yard that buys metal from the public. It is one of many Ontario businesses that have had problems with scrap metal thefts in the past.

“I think if there were more jobs out there, people wouldn’t be desperate and doing things like this,” said Jones.

Jones said the company has had to take precautions to avoid future intrusions.

“We do have all the perimeter blocked off, but unfortunately people will always somehow find a way,” said Jones.

Companies have to absorb all the costs of upgrading security. Costs can include installing cameras, putting up fences, and hiring security.

“It does force your hand to go more expensive routes,” said Jones.

Another theory why scrap metal thefts have risen is the high prices of most kinds of metals in the market.

Rae said the rise of scrap metal thefts is largely due to the economy.

“Recyclable metal is very valuable and people are getting good money for it,” said Rae.

Some of the metals that are particularly valuable right now are copper and steel. The source doesn’t matter though, as long as it’s transportable.

“Any source of metal that they can get their hands on they are taking,” said Rae.

The thefts range from metal being stolen from large industrial locations, to piping and copper wire being stolen from small businesses and residences. Thefts from cottages are of particular concern due to lack of security.

“In the recent past we have had people who are building their home leaving metal out, whether it be for piping etc. That stuff needs to be locked away because when they return the next day to continue building that metal is gone,” said Rae.

On May 3 two men from Brighton, and one from Cramahe Township were arrested after scrap metal was taken from a business in Brighton.

The three were charged with possession of property obtained by crime, and theft under $5,000 dollars.

The OPP have stressed that people need to keep metals locked up and report any suspicious activity.

“Our best defense is making sure people are aware, one; that this is occurring, two; that they protect themselves, three; that they report any type of suspicious activity to the police immediately,” said Rae.

Thefts aren’t just happening in the Quinte area though, or even just Canada. Many other countries have had issues with scrap metal being stolen.

In the U.S.A, according to the FBI website, copper thefts lead to the disruption of electricity, transportation, water supply, and security and emergency services. The disruptions “present a risk to both public safety and national security.”

In Britain, BBC recently reported that metal thefts cost the UK economy $1.2 billion CAD every year.

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