The Global Rise in Copper Theft

The high price of copper has made it a tempting target for organised crime. In recent years there has been a rise in theft of the valuable metal across the UK since the pandemic saw the price of copper soar.

Rise in UK copper theft

At the end of August, £60K worth of copper cables were stolen from Kentford in Suffolk and nearly 1.5km of copper cables were stolen from a village in Hertfordshire, knocking out the internet of nearly 1000 homes in the area. In July, thieves stole £50K worth of copper train parts from the Loughborough depot – valuable pipework and cylinders specifically designed for a high-budget steam train restoration.

Typically these crimes are carried out by organised gangs who target specific regions before moving on to the next, and this issue isn’t isolated to the UK. As the global copper market has changed, the rise in copper theft can be seen globally.

Copper theft around the world

Electric vehicle chargers have been the target of copper thieves in Nevada, USA. The EV charging cables are cut and stripped to retrieve the valuable copper. Although copper theft has been an issue since before the pandemic, the dramatic rise in price has exacerbated the issue.

South Africa has seen such widespread issues of copper theft in recent years that the trade minister Ebrahim Patel has proposed a six-month ban on scrap metal exports in an attempt to curb the issue which has had a serious impact on power and transport across the nation. He has also proposed a more rigorous registration system for scrap commerce to enable a higher level of monitoring and policing.

How do we combat this crime?

In accordance with the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, it is a legal requirement in the UK for scrap yards to require proof of identity for anyone selling their scrap. They must also pay for scrap using electronic payments rather than cash. These measures help to deter metal thieves from selling their stolen scrap and protect local scrapyards from criminal activity.

This is why we always ask for identification and bank details when we buy scrap at Singleton’s Scrap Yard. We’ll always offer the top prices for scrap – including copper cables and piping – and welcome trade scrap metal! Please feel free to contact us if you’re looking to sell your scrap in the Manchester area and want to find out more.

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