Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.
Stealing and reselling copper wire from abandoned homes is so yesterday
It was probably a strange call to make, let alone to receive. “I couldn’t believe it,” Gary Bruce told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after a neighbor called to tell him that a bridge his company owned had somehow disappeared. As WTAE reports, the 50-foot bridge in North Beaver Township in western Pennsylvania was seemingly stolen sometime in the past two weeks.
Police believe thieves used a torch to dismantle the steel bridge, presumably to sell its pieces as scrap metal. The bridge was only sporadically used, according to Bruce who represents New Castle Development, the company that owns the property. He tells the Post-Gazette that the company had recently decided to close the bridge off to the public because of rising incidences of metal theft.
Rising scrap metal prices and high numbers of empty foreclosed homes have led to a spike in metal theft, especially high-value copper wiring inside the walls of many homes. Metalprices.com reports that copper is worth more than $3 per pound, up from less than a dollar in 2003. Manhole covers have also been stolen, as have train rails.
This Pennsylvania bridge, though, is not the first to be stolen. A Polish bridge was stolen in 1998, thieves in Ukraine stole an 11-meter bridge in 2004, and a 200-ton bridge was dismantled and stolen in Russia in 2008.
Still, it’s kind of a strange evolution of the desperation inspired by the economic recession. Once all the abandoned homes have been gutted, will the country’s crumbling infrastructure be the new target?