MADRID – Spanish police have launched an “offensive” to try and deal with the surge in thefts of copper and electrical cable in recent months, officials said Sunday.
Within the scope of this offensive, authorities have given precise instructions to all police units involved in the matter to increase their vigilance and searching of scrap yards and foundries where the stolen metal might be processed, afterwards to be exported to countries like China, Interior Ministry officials said.
The rising number of copper cable thefts from different facilities have resulted in whole towns being left without power or telephone service, and unlit streetlights along dozens of kilometers (miles) of streets and roadways, and it has even forced authorities to curtail railway service in some areas.
The operation, coordinated by the Secretary of State for Security and supervised by the General Police Administration and the Civil Guard, may include cooperation agreements with the main companies affected – electric utilities, railways and telecommunications firms – to establish measures to prevent the thefts.
One element of this special plan was a recent large raid carried out simultaneously all across Spain in which the police and Civil Guard managed to recover 103 tons of stolen copper.
In the operation – in which participated 12,600 officers from both corps, an unprecedented deployment – more than 1,000 scrap yards were inspected and 24 people arrested, the great majority of them for buying the stolen metal.
In the raid, authorities identified hundreds of providers of copper and located many of the places where the thieves burn the electric cable to get rid of the plastic covering and be able to sell the metal at a higher price.
Officials estimate that the more than 100 tons of copper that were recovered would have been valued at more than 500,000 euros ($680,000) on the black market, about 5 euros per kilogram ($6.10 per pound) of stolen metal, making the practice a very profitable “business.”
So far this year, the police and Civil Guard have arrested about 1,000 people for these thefts, approximately double the number that were apprehended in 2009.
Although the robberies are being carried out all over Spain, it is Catalonia and Valencia that are suffering most from the thefts, which are causing millions of dollars in losses for the victimized firms.