Less Crime

Copper Cable Theft: Revisiting the Price-Theft Hypothesis

Aiden Sidebottom (@Aiden_S), Shane Johnson and I have a paper out in the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency titled “Copper Cable Theft: Revisiting the Price-Theft Hypothesis”. This research note extends previous work by Sidebottom et al looking at the relationship between changes in the frequency of metal-theft from railways and changes in the wholesale price of copper. This paper confirmed the results of the earlier work, which found that the frequency of thefts closely tracks the price of copper.

The abstract of the paper is:

Recently, against a backdrop of general reductions in acquisitive crime, increases have been observed in the frequency of metal theft offences. This is generally attributed to increases in metal prices in response to global demand exceeding supply. The main objective of this article was to examine the relationship between the price of copper and levels of copper theft, focusing specifically on copper cable theft from the British railway network. Results indicated a significant positive correlation between lagged increases in copper price and copper cable theft. No support was found for rival hypotheses concerning U.K. unemployment levels and the general popularity of theft as crime type. An ancillary aim was to explore offender modus operandi over time, which is discussed in terms of its implications for preventing copper cable theft. The authors finish with a discussion of theft of other commodities in price-volatile markets.