Meltdown: metal prices spur thieves
Bronze memorials are being stolen for their copper content
PATRICIA TREBLE | April 23, 2008 |
Czech police suspected neo-Nazis when 327 bronze markers were torn out of the cemetery at the site of the Theresienstadt concentration camp, 50 km north of Prague, in mid-April. Then, after another 700 were ripped out the following week, a more pedestrian motive was revealed: greed. On April 18, a scrap metal dealer was arrested. He'd allegedly stolen the plaques for their copper content.
With metal prices skyrocketing — copper is up fivefold from 2001 to 2007 — thieves have become amazingly creative. Last week, several owners opening their summer homes in Villas, N.J., looked under the buildings and discovered their copper piping was gone. Criminals are even targeting empty foreclosed homes, ripping apart walls to extract piping and any other valuable metals.
As demand around the world soars, especially from China, virtually no metal is safe. Cemetery statues have vanished. A rail link between Bulgaria and Macedonia has been delayed because scrap metal thieves have repeatedly targeted the bridges on the route, while an entire four-tonne iron bridge in the Czech Republic was stolen in February. The dismantling project, according to police investigator Ladislav Boehm, would have taken two months — yet no one apparently noticed. And police in Canada, the United States, as well as Europe, are seeing an increasing number of cars stripped of their catalytic converters, which contain valuable traces of platinum. Robbers quickly slide under a vehicle in a parking lot or driveway and can hack off the device without setting off a car alarm.
In the Czech Republic, while officials recovered hundreds of the Theresienstadt cemetery plaques, they won't be reinstalled. New tablets are going to be made — this time using resin.