Here’s a new excuse for bad service: AT&T is being plagued by copper thieves in Tennessee. The thefts of copper cables “has caused disruptions to voice and data communications, as well as emergency calls, company officials said.” [The Tennessean]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Gopher bond says:

    Saw a local story in the paper about some dude that tried to steal copper, from a live power wire. Whoops.

  2. cynu414 says:

    It is a pretty good excuse. “We can not provide service because some fools have taken all of our equipment.”

  3. Bladefist says:

    @cynu414: AT&T should have been prepared with wireless power lines

  4. velvetjones says:

    That’s been going on for months and months and is happening all over the nation. Worse yet these fools are breaking into vacant (foreclosed) homes and stealing the copper pipe out of the walls. They’re also stealing catalytic converters from parked cars to sell the platinum for scrap.

  5. Dobernala says:

    solution: energize all your copper

  6. Manok says:

    I knew a guy who had his house broken into and all his copper pipe was ripped out of his basement.

  7. cynu414 says:

    @Bladefist: Your right, what were they thinking. Of course i like Dobernala’s solution. That’ll fix ’em.

  8. Ladley says:

    I didn’t think much of these stories…until my roommate’s catalytic converter was cleanly removed from his Jeep last week.

    In related news, I would urge people not to leave their vehicles in the park & ride @ Miller Road and M14 near Ann Arbor, Michigan.

  9. Reminds me of the time one of my company’s circuts went down in Texas…because somebody shot it.

  10. @velvetjones: Remember the great copper wire fire of 2006?

    Two homeless men burning the insulation off copper wires they intended to sell as scrap sparked the spectacular fire that ripped through a warehouse complex on the Brooklyn waterfront last month, the authorities said yesterday. Four hundred firefighters fought the May 2 blaze, which consumed at least 10 historic buildings. []

  11. Rachelattack says:

    I’m a printmaker, and traditional intaglio calls for copper plates. I bought about about a 2×3 sheet when I took intro and didn’t end up liking intaglio much. I forgot I had scrap until a couple months ago, and managed to sell 1/3 of the sheet for $50. Who says flaky art students don’t invest! Thanks increasing demand for resources!

  12. mitchelwb says:

    a couple months ago, here in Kansas City a local radio station suddenly went off the air because a bunch of copper was stolen from their signal station. Blaming AT&T for bad service because a worthless theif stole copper is like blaming Wendy’s for serving chili with a finger in it.

  13. dustincimino says:

    Maybe Im just slow but why would people steal all this cooper wiring and pipes? Is it worth a lot?

  14. Skiffer says:

    @dustincimino: Oh yeah, metal prices have sky-rocketed.

    I think the figure I heard is $50 for the platinum in a catalytic converter.

    Even Home Depot / Lowe’s now put those “anti-theft” tags on their copper water line tubing (the 1/4-in ice-maker kind) now.

  15. SexCpotatoes says:

    Well, you all asked for Network Neutrality, I’d say AT&T letting tweakers steal all the lines is pretty damned fair to just about everybody, I mean it makes everybody equal, doesn’t it?


  16. tedyc03 says:

    These thieves are just hoping that AT&T replaces it with FIoS…

    And I thought this thing in unindustrialized nations… []

  17. tcolberg says:

    Southern California Edison had an outage to 20,000 customers or so the other day because copper thieves disabled a substation. This problem of copper theft just seems to be getting worse every time I hear about it.

  18. Dammit, Bubbles…

  19. thufir_hawat says:

    Seems to be the perfect self-sustaining criminal cycle. Steal copper to sell for scrap, requiring replacements components, increasing copper demand, raising copper prices, making theft more attractive, ad infinitum.

    Thieives (addicts mainly) are stealing copper coils out of air conditioners in commercial buildings here which, with 100 degree days, is not nearly as funny as you might think.

  20. rekoil says:

    So dare I ask: who are they selling the stolen copper to? Someone’s making way more profit off of this than the thieves are. Follow the money…

  21. kaden says:

    Anything with copper in it is worth a stupid amount of money these days… Cat5 cable is currently about $1.40/pound at street level scrap metal yards, and heavy gauge bright ‘n shiny bare copper wire is hovering around 3 bucks. At those prices, it’s not just street folk doing the pilfering.

  22. Gopher bond says:

    @rekoil: Lots of states are starting to pass laws requiring scrap metal dealers to verify identity of the people they accept scrap metal from but the only way they can get busted is from undercover stings.

    I’ve built a locking fenced box around my outside air conditioner to persuade tweakers to go the next house.

  23. nursetim says:

    There was a house fire in this area last week that was caused by thieves breaking into an unoccupied house and tearing out the gas line to the dryer. They just ripped it out and let the natural gas fill the house.

  24. DH405 says:

    This is getting absolutely ridiculous. I’m looking to buy a foreclosed house, and now it’s missing the copper pipes and condenser from the AC.

    I love how people will steal $100 worth of good from you to make 2 bucks.

  25. TangDrinker says:

    A local town started offering registration numbers for grave and tombstone markers – because many were starting to go “missing” because they were made of brass. How sad is that?

  26. Orv says:

    @tcolberg: That’s particularly dumb since there’s not all that much copper in most substations. Substation bus bars are usually aluminum, and power transmission lines are often aluminum-clad steel. The lower cost, lighter weight, and higher strength of these materials, compared to copper, more than makes up for their slightly lower electrical conductivity.

  27. GearheadGeek says:

    If I catch anyone trying to steal my copper or platinum, I’ll gladly offer them some lead. Probably about 11 rounds of it until it goes “click click” on that empty chamber….

  28. AlphaTeam says:

    Maybe it’s wise to bury the lines?

  29. darksunfox says:

    What do you say the chances are that some of these idiots break into our server room and steal the Ethernet cables, leaving the $10,000 servers untouched? Thieves are dumb. One time my car got broken into and they stole my pleather jacket, backpack and about 6 CD’s, but they didn’t even bother stealing the discman sitting on the passenger seat (this was back when discman’s were actually expensive… I guess I should have said iPod, huh?)

    They broke the passenger window to get in.

  30. Gopher bond says:


    Well, what you steal depends a lot on who you can sell it to. I might not be able to sell a $10K server if I’m too ignorant to know what it is or who would want one. But I know copper and I know I can sell it to the junk metal guy without a lot of questions.

  31. forgottenpassword says:


    Yeah, I heard lately here (Kansas city) that they were proposing a law where ANYONE who brought in over $50 worth of scrap metal was to have their ID copied & had their picture taken.

    I think putting the burden on the customers & the buyers is a bunch of bullshit & the wrong way of going about copper/aluminum thefts.

  32. Rusted says:

    Copper is old hat anyway. Fiber is the way to go. As for plumbing, PEX and CPVC is cheaper and easier to install and repair.

  33. coren says:

    @dustincimino: Oh yeah. Lots of drug users have been stealing scrap metal for years just to feed the habit

    @rekoil: Shady scrap dealers make CRAZY profit from this, especially when it’s some crack or meth head just trying to get a fix. They’ll sell crap way under value

  34. kittenfoo says:

    I live in Tennessee and I can vouch for the huge metal theft problem. My sweetie and I took an old iron bed frame to the metal recyclers, and that place was like Wal-Mart on the Saturday before Christmas. While the rest of the economy is pretty dead, metal dealers are sitting pretty, though they do have new record-keeping requirements aimed at combating theft. My boyfriend’s old 1993 beater car isn’t running, and we’re wondering whether we should simply sell it for scrap.

  35. thomanjones says:

    @Magnakai Haaskivi: Haha, nice. That totally made my day.