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All the white working class kids in my little corner of the world are onto this one and have been for the past year or so!

Soaring global demand for copper is a growing threat to the British railway network leading to a surge in trackside metal theft, police have warned. Copper theft caused more than 240,000 minutes of delays for train passengers last year after a near-fivefold rise in robberies at tracks and depots.

Rail customers are the victims of an economic crime that is being driven by the insatiable demand for industrial material in China and India, said Andy Trotter, deputy chief constable of the British Transport police. “It is a growing problem,” he said. “You have only got to look at the rising copper price on the metal market and the theft of copper matches that rise almost absolutely. Unfortunately, the impact on the infrastructure is beginning to bite.”

Copper theft is a major problem in north-east England, accounting for nearly two-thirds of the delays related to metal thieves in the UK and wreaking havoc with the Northern Trains franchise. Mr Trotter said the regional bias of the problem may reflect the north-east’s industrial heritage. “The north-east has a tradition of heavy industry and of people who know how to deal with copper and metals,” he said. “There are also lots of people who know how to trade in it.”

Police also blamed copper thieves for the demolition of a bungalow in Bradford yesterday. The unoccupied house exploded after copper gas pipes on the outer walls were fractured, apparently by someone trying to rip them out. Police are looking for two boys, aged 10 and 11, in relation to the explosion.

“The copper is going through larger scrapyards, then to smelters and then by ship to China, which has an incredible demand for copper, particularly with the Beijing Olympics coming and the demand for telecoms infrastructure,” Mr Trotter said.

The global price of copper has risen fivefold since 2001 and has risen above $8,000 (£4,000) a tonne this year, driven by demand for its use in car production, building and power grids. China accounts for about 20% of global copper consumption and the US for 13%. Such is the demand that 2p pieces are more valuable if they are melted down for their copper…

…The clampdown has also led to stakeouts at suspect scrapyards, which have emerged as key outposts in the cable crime food chain.

Copper theft is also spreading to other industries. Earlier this month, Northumbrian Water said it had stepped up security after a spate of thefts from some of its sewage works in the north-east which it said would cost the company £100,000.

What makes this theft criminal and why is theft of oil or minerals from the third world through force not? Rhetorical question… Looking from my own lofty height I see no violent crime. Yes, cables are stolen from the railway and sidlngs but these are young boys still in school and some barely out of it who have picked up the profrit motive in an adulterated fashion. He! The Guardian. Non Sexy. So PC.

That aside, I ask you to think of Zambia, a supplier of copper to the world market during the sixties and seventies, eighties, nineties but which always found that the market for copper was controlled abroad in trading markets and ensured that so many Africans in Zambia lived below the poverty line sans water and electricity and good schools on the dirt road that passed their home. A road which a public transport vehicle might pass two or three times a day, if you were lucky. People in Zambia, those who worked the mines that stripped the copper, never saw wealth from copper enriching their communities.

Now I have to feel sorry for a bunch of booted and suited wankers who miss their trains because some entrepreneurial ten year olds steal copper from their railway? Give me a break.

I am watching Filthy Rich and Homeless on the telly and so far I am struck by how free enterprise is not so free.

A bunch of filthy rich brats give up the comforts of their homes to live on the streets sans mobiles, money, contacts.

One of the more entrepreneurial of the group arrogantly imagines he can make £200 pounds a day and begins his new enterprise by blagging flowers on credit from a wholesaler. His attitude to the waifs and strays he has encountered on the streets so far, has been that they are lazy, good for nothings. Given the chance to make hard cash he is dismayed to suddenly discover he needs a license to sell those flowers to the general public. The license costs money. Money he, of course, does not have. The coppers soon get to recognise him and thwart his plan at every underground station he decides to pitch at.

He is cold, tired and hungry and now begins to see the purpose of the soup kitchen.

The Guardian. So PC.

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