Markets in Everything: Copper Kills in Detroit
Crain's Detroit Business -- In June 2003, high-grade copper sold on the New York Mercantile Exchange for 72 cents per pound. Last week, prices topped $3.55 (see chart above). The cost of copper and other scrap metals has soared over the past five years, driven by world demand that's outstripped supply
As the value of copper and other metals has risen, abandoned or occupied structures, utility lines and even vehicles have become targets for scavengers in Detroit.
Derelict houses have long been targets for scavengers, but in recent years utilities have become popular targets for metals thieves. Electricity provider DTE Energy Co. had more than 500 cases of copper theft in 2007, a sharp increase from years past. They've seen about 200 to 250 cases so far this year.
The utility has spent between $6 million and $7 million on copper theft-related issues over the past two years. And there's another, more grisly cost — at least six bodies presumed to be of thieves have been found at the bases of power poles.