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Fresno (California). There are thieves ply in the middle of the night, work fast, in pairs or teams. For a minute they can immerse into the darkness of the whole area. They reveal the technical boxes streetlights are copper wires and take a bite of. Snip, snip.
Although the police arrested the thieves caught in the act of copper, they can not pace himself at all. Take a walk at night — in some streets as dark as a cave. Even if you stop the thieves today, anyway, maintenance crews will need a year to recover any damages. Meanwhile, the dark areas entice criminals to rob houses, steal cars and do more terrible things.
In recent years, theft of copper from road signs, street and signal lights on motorways around the city has become a serious problem. KalTrans — a state agency for road maintenance was to divert the workers from repairing potholes, railings and fences, and send them to the repair of damaged lights to avoid terrible accidents. They can not keep up with the copper thieves who make their raids several times a week.
As if Fresno, one of the poorest cities in the country do not have enough other problems. Indeed, in this city of high unemployment, rampant banditry, rising crime and abuse of methamphetamine. Today, the city has a population of 509,000 inhabitants in the heart of California's Central Valley farm is the epicenter of theft of copper, pushing for a recession ravaged cities across the country.
"We believe that a year to recover all the lights," — said Lee Brand, a member of the City Council of Fresno, who has developed a plan to prevent thieves — team of repairmen have repaired more than 20,000 quick-drying cement lantern technical boxes. But he adds: "Among them there are a lot of desperate people."
As the price of copper rose to a new record — more than 4.5 dollars per pound of scrap metal, but five years ago, it cost about $ 1 — it has attracted cash-strapped scrap collectors across the country.
The city hardest hit by the recession who are least able to survive another disaster, becoming the main objective of the crisis. In Phoenix (AZ), hit by a massive selection of houses, thieves attacked copper telephone exchanges AT & T more than 20 times in the last year, bringing in thousands of dollars in damages for the interruption of communication and millions of dollars — for the repairs. In Haddonfield (New Jersey), a suburb a few miles from the squalid slums Camden, copper thieves stole copper downspouts from single-family homes. In McDowell County (West Virginia), one of the poorest places in the Appalachians, copper thieves cause serious damage to telephone lines, according to the site scraptheftalert.com, which tracks the theft of copper and other recyclable materials.
From 2008 to 2011., When the recession hit harder metals that are stolen for resale items recycled, rose by 81% in all states, according to the spring report of the insurance industry. 96% of all thefts of metal — copper theft.
Street lights and telephone lines — primary goals. But the thieves are stealing copper wherever they can reach it. They are breaking into locked shut, selected for the debts of the house and destroy the wall to produce copper wires and pipes. They're stealing copper from air conditioners, large appliances and motor vehicles, they steal monuments in cemeteries. They are immersed in the darkness of schools, factories, kindergartens, the main streets. According to conservative estimates by the Ministry of Energy, the theft of copper wire costs the country more than $ 1 billion a year.
In Fresno County — the largest agricultural district of the United States and, at the same time, the poorest district of California — farming nokautichesky suffered a blow. Thieves steal copper from water pumps, as well as — irrigation pipes and other agricultural-equipment necessary for the cultivation of basic grains. Thefts account for 85% of rural crime in the area, causing damage to 10 times more than the cost of deposited copper scrap, writes Associated Press.
Some law enforcement officers accused of drug addicts in the copper fresnenskih fever. But others say that the bandits who had served their sentences have returned to the streets and made the theft of copper wire as its new illegal business.
But it is — is just speculation about who actually does more damage. The poverty rate in Fresno — 26.4%, in some schools, half of the students live below the poverty line.
When spread stories about how the crop can give copper — night work in the lanes can earn a few thousand dollars — an army of thieves of copper increased significantly. At 3:00 one recent night the police caught 41-year-old man with a teenage son, when they were trying to get the copper from the lights of children's bicycles.
Thieves are rarely caught. And those who get caught are usually charged with administrative offenses or vandalism. In Fresno, where prisons are overcrowded due to budget cuts, suspected of stealing copper, as well as other suspects in non-violent offenses, usually released within a day.
Only a few states have laws that specifically address anti-theft metal. These laws require that acceptors scrap maintain complete records of their activities. In California acceptors scrap, are supposed to wait three days before you pay for scrap to find out the origin of the metal. But there is a loophole thieves — allowed 30-day sale, during which you can freely take the scrap for cash.
Repair crews restoring the street lights on the darkened streets of the city — the city treasury at a cost of about 800 million dollars — is, in the opinion of the citizens, the heroes who have dedicated their lives to the struggle with darkness.
"Oh, thank God," — said the other day, Greg Connor, looking as repairmen came into his pickup truck, after the restoration of light, which was out on his street for more than six months. — "Thank God Almighty, we are free at last."
See also: cable theft on the railways of Belgium has become a "national catastrophe"