Calgary

Copper wire may be tied to man's death

With the price of copper tripling in recent years, metal recyclers in Calgary say they've seen an increasing number of people trying to sell stolen wiring.

Was a man found dead at the bottom of an ENMAX electrical vault Wednesday trying to steal copper wire?

Cut wire was seen around the open manhole, and tools were found in the vault. Police would only say they are still investigating the case.

However, with the price of copper tripling in recent years, metal recyclers in Calgary say they've seen an increasing number of people trying to sell stolen wiring.

"They're stealing it from job sites big-time in the construction industry," Garth Snyder, general manager of Blackfoot Metals, said Thursday. "They'll go as far as to go into construction yards right in broad daylight and steal it right out of the yard."

"That is the gold of the industry, right there," Snyder says, holding up a metre-long piece of shiny copper wire, worth about $10. He says aluminum siding is a close second in terms of value.

But Snyder said stolen goods have become such a problem that some dealers now require photo ID to complete the transaction.

"You get a guy that comes in a car, and he's got a trunk-full and the backseat full. They definitely never bring them in in the spools because spools would give it away," Snyder said of the thieves.

"If they refuse to give us the ID, then they'll go back out the door. We take their licence number. You phone the police."

RCMP Sgt. Patrick Webb said metal thefts are a problem across Western Canada.

"The value to a criminal to steal that and actually pawn it somehow or take it to a scrap dealer has gone up and it's worth their time and effort," he said.

Dave Fehr, who runs Alberta Siding Projects, says $1,000 worth of aluminum siding, which one person can load into a pickup truck in minutes, can bring more than $300 at a scrap yard.

"Oh gosh, they can have it delivered in the morning and it's taken in the afternoon," he told CBC News.

Fehr says some metal suppliers are marking their products so they can be identified even if they're cleaned and stripped.

The price of copper closed Wednesday at $3.78 US a pound in New York, compared with $1 US a pound just five years ago.