SPOTLIGHT: Copper's shiny allure

The rising value of copper--it's gone up $1 a pound to about $3 in recent months--has created an expanding headache for telcos and police agencies: wire thieves. A quick Google search for "telephone wire theft" pulled in nearly 100 unrelated reports of thieves making off with anywhere from 200 to some 3,500 feet of cable from telco poles across the country and in Canada. The worst place to string wire? Detroit.

Already this year, AT&T has reported 475 cases of lines being cut and stolen. It's rampant in rural areas where remote locations make detection less of an issue. Police in Canada reported one case where thieves climbed a 360-foot tower to steal 900 feet of cable. Their take? About $400. The cost to replace it? Nearly $6,000. In another incident, thieves cut down 14 telephone poles, coiled the wire and made off with it. Some companies have begun offering rewards and some local governments are asking recyclers to gather info about people selling them "recycled" copper cable.

How bad is the problem? Got a good wire-theft story to share or, maybe, a good how-to-avoid-theft story? Let me know, we'll run the best of them.--Jim

For more, check out these articles in the Duluth News Tribune, the Ottawa Citizen, and the Detroit Free Press