South Australian Police have had a stand-off with two men on the roof of a vacant apartment block at Parkside on Tuesday night.
- SA Police have arrested two men for allegedly stealing copper piping
- Copper remains one of the highest value scrap metals in Australia
- With no serial numbers, copper theft has often been an issue as it’s almost untraceable
Police said they responded to reports of two men allegedly stealing copper piping from the building on George Street shortly before 6:30pm on Tuesday.
After police arrived, the men — aged 33 and 40 — climbed on to the roof.
“This is the police, the building is surrounded, there is a police helicopter above you, there are police dogs in the building, your escape is futile,” a police officer on the scene exclaimed.
With the help of a fire truck with an extendable ladder, police helped one of the men down.
The other man hid in the roof, and was subdued with capsicum spray before being arrested.
Both men have been granted bail and will face court in July.
Why would people steal copper?
Copper remains one of the highest value scrap metals in Australia.
That’s according to Alan Morgan, Managing Director of Recycling Australia.
He said there were still plenty of illegitimate scrap metal companies around Australia who would take copper and other scrap metals for cash.
“Depending on the type of copper but it’s probably the highest value scrap that we buy at the moment,” he said.
“They can probably go to any scrap metal company, the legitimate scrap metal companies will still take registration numbers, drivers licence and all the details.
“The illegitimate scrap companies — which there are still a few of them around — will take it off them, no dockets, just cash.
“It would be at a far reduced price that someone like us would pay but that’s the end of it, take the cash and away they go.”
With plenty of work sites often the target or thefts for tools and materials like scrap metals, Mr Morgan said he believed it was a common theft happening Australia-wide.
“It’s happening Australia wide still, absolutely, you find that theft of scrap metal, when the prices are up like they are now, theft tends to go up,” he said.
“There’s been some changes in the industry where New South Wales is now cashless, Victoria is heading that way and I would suggest others states are following that soon.
“Which means that obviously they can trace income — but that probably isn’t going to help too much on theft.”
‘Biggest return on the least amount of work’
Copper is a common and easy target for theft — and Mr Morgan said it was the illegitimate companies which were to blame.
“The illegitimate scrap companies that are still operating are fuelling the cash and the theft,” he said.
“Commodity prices are quite good at the moment across the board, copper included.
“Basically you’ve got your copper, aluminium, stainless steel and steel — basic metals, steel pricing at the moment is somewhere around $200 a tonne, copper is $7-8,000 a tonne.
“Copper is definitely the item that thieves tend to focus on because it gives them the biggest return on the least amount of work.
“Piping, cable, wire, building sites where they’ve just wired a site, come back in and all the wire is gone.
“With scrap metal there’s always been an issue with theft, because there’s no serial numbers, you’re not stealing a car with a registration or a VIN, it’s almost untraceable.”