Metal prices may be sluggish, but type in the key words “metal theft,” and any news search will yield at least ten stories from local papers on stolen copper wires, scrap metal, or parts from street lights or a/c units. Metal theft is far more than local petty crime, however, and its far-reaching implications have garnered national attention in many countries.
Case in point is the U.K., where a bill that would update previous legislation by introducing compulsory licensing for “scrap metal dealers, punitive fines and increased enforcement powers and local authorities” has moved from the House of Commons to the House of Lords.
The fact that the U.K. parliament is debating legislation to curb metal theft indicates that the issue is more than just a series of individual small-scale crimes (with huge economic price tags for certain sectors), but rather a market indicator of resource scarcity.
One of the most popular targets for metal thieves is copper, a metal the price of which is “not necessarily tied to short-term monetary policies.” While near-term demand for metals like copper may have slowed, there is little doubt that in the long run, major consumers like China will seek to “replenish its destocked inventories,” keeping metal theft in the news and thieves in business.