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Baltimore authorities target growing trend of metal theft

Discussion and worry about theft crimes have traditionally revolved around more obviously valuable items such as cars, jewelry, home electronics or money. But in Baltimore, a new kind of theft has reportedly replaced the old, leaving residents with a more unusual list of items to track and keep safe from potential criminals.

Metal theft has become more common in Baltimore, the rate having increased in the county by 450 percent since as recently as 2009. The Baltimore Police don't identify the specific reason behind the theft trend. The department's goal is simply to put an end to the metal theft that's leaving some residents and businesses with missing copper and aluminum items.

Police Chief Johnson reports that metal theft is nothing new, but it is new with regards to how common it has become in the area. Apparently, criminal suspects are finding success in getting metal items and selling them for profit, depending on the market value at a given time.

Due to the Baltimore theft trend, the police department has put together a special law enforcement team to handle metal theft cases. Authorities are making sure to notify the public of the prevalence of metal theft and take steps toward curbing the trend. One effort to reduce the rate of metal theft involves collaboration with Baltimore Gas and Electric.

One targeted item in metal theft cases is electric wiring that would come from BGE. Copper is a valuable metal today compared to times in the past, worth a reported $4.80 per pound. The copper wires are commonly stolen and then sold for their value. BGE will now be coating their wires with green paint so they are easily identified as potentially stolen property.

Baltimore residents are being warned about metal theft and encouraged to document their metal items in case they get stolen and police need help connecting supposedly stolen metal to specific cases. This effort and the effort involving BGE are just the beginning of law enforcement's attempt to identify theft suspects here in Baltimore and the rest of the country. It won't be surprising for there to be an increase in theft arrests here and beyond.

Source: WBAL Radio, "Metals Thefts Spike 400 Percent In One County," Anne Kramer, May 14, 2012

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