I’ve been following copper theft for quite sometime. As I reported before, I have compelling reasons for doing so, having been victimized in personal and professional spheres. There are reasons why copper theft occurs in cycles around the world. One of those reasons is the demand; the emerged economies of China and India have an insatiable appetite for raw materials for their burgeoning industrial productions. The other is supply, limited supply drives up prices and increases motivation for theft of copper bearing assets wherever they could be had. The illegal copper trade is one exemplary of how the underbelly of the global economy operates. The global commodity trends are a driving force in local criminal trends. Unless you keep a close watch of the tendencies, it becomes a silent menace that quickly balloons to the tune of millions in asset losses.
According to this news report Spain is in the throws of a copper theft epidemic. The rash of copper motivated thefts does not only leave electric utilities, railways and telecommunications companies on a scramble to stem hundreds of thousands of Euros in losses, but has created public safety hazards as towns are left without power or telephone service, and unlit streetlights along dozens of kilometers (miles) of streets and roadways. I personally have experience these trends unfold in different regions (Latin America, North America and beyond), so the Spanish authority’s strategy as described by the article strikes me as effective; going after the dealers and wheelers. But the hierarchy goes much further, since corruption and collusion play a large role in this illicit trade. Global criminals are also wise to the ways of globalization, leveraging cheap freight cost and trade liberalization to move stolen goods unimpeded. My recommendation is that more cooperation is needed across international law enforcement agencies to first understand the trends and then attack the other end of this global illicit trade, the industrial buyers. Local solutions would only go so far, you need multipliers to balance out the laws of global supply and demand.
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