Lockport Copper Thief Electrocuted

One of the problems in scrap recycling is the occurrence of theft of old metals by people seeking lucrative sources of copper, steel, and bronze. When the global copper market rose in 2006 and 2007, reported thefts of downspouts, electrical wiring, pipes, and other sources of copper skyrocketed. The market crashed in late 2008, muting the secondary metal trade (including this small, illegitimate portion of the the trade).

Although economic recovery has been slow, it has happened. With it, prices of secondary metal have gone up, increasing incentive for thieves. Last year, a thief stole the century-old bronze letters from the facade of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple.  Several more have been reported in the Chicago area this year in venues as diverse as houses where the wires have been stripped to funeral urns stolen from a cemetery.  In Lockport last month, a copper thief was electrocuted.

A man trying to steal copper wire in a Lockport park was killed when a power line fell on him, authorities said this morning.

Emergency personnel called to Dellwood Park at about 9:20 p.m. Wednesday found the man on fire and trapped by power lines, according to Lockport Township Fire Chief David Skoryi.

“No rescue attempt was possible,” he said. “Electricity had charged the ground. You could feel the electricity. You couldn’t get near.”

Firefighters were able to extinguish the fire and retrieve the body after Commonwealth Edison workers cut the electricity, he said.

While thefts are by no means representative of the secondary metal industry, they represent a problem plaguing the industry since its maturation in the late nineteenth century. Assistant Professor Carl Zimring discusses this history in his book Cash for Your Trash: Scrap Recycling in America, including measures members of the scrap metal trade took to discourage theft and unethical business practices.

That book is one of the materials used in Roosevelt’s new SUST 240 Waste seminar, which we plan on offering in Fall 2012.  For information on this or any other of our courses, please visit our Sustainability Studies website, call 1-877-277-5978 (1-877-APPLY RU) or email applyRU@roosevelt.edu.

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