Not a day goes by, seemingly, without hearing about metal thieves inconveniencing others or even risking lives when they take metal that doesn’t belong to them. The London Olympics apparently could see spectators delayed based on the fact that the local rail network sees thefts every day. Electricity networks and even gas supplies are regularly disrupted by people stealing piping and cables. The government has noticed the problem exists and is considering legislation to combat it. Of course, the problem is driven by the relatively high price of scrap metal and people feeling the need to make quick money.
In Ohio, USA, the problem has even spread to public toilets and the cloakroom suites in restaurants and bars: thieves are stealing plumbing and fixtures to weigh it in and causing damage that far exceeds what they could possibly hope to get from the scrap metal merchant. Police in the state, specifically the Upper Arlington police division, are investigating a string of thefts in the central part of Ohio in a number of different businesses.
Heather Galli, a community relations/crime prevention officer with the Ohio police says that the thefts have happened in a number of cities and has urged citizens to be alert and report any suspicious behaviour. One of the thefts took place on the 21st of January, where a thief actually managed to steal a copper urinal fixture from a restaurant. It’s hard to understand how someone could successfully manage to remove one of them and carry it out of the building without anyone noticing, but it is a sign of the scale of the problem that someone has managed to do so and then get away with it.
Of course, it isn’t just the fact that people are getting away with such thefts, or the damage that they cause (one assumes that it is causing flooding in the affected businesses), or even the cost of replacement or inconvenience to the other patrons that these crimes cause that is most striking: it is the health risk and sheer unpleasantness of the act of stealing a urinal. Who actually disconnects a urinal and then carries it out, with it dripping on them?
Hopefully, this will be a trend that doesn’t make its way across to Britain, but with the high price that scrap metal is currently commanding and people’s willingness to steal scrap, regardless of risk, inconvenience and morality, it is something that could be happening here. However, this seems to be something that is specific to unoccupied properties or high foot traffic areas, rather than private residences. You don’t have to go chaining up your bathroom just yet.