U.K. Thieves Use Google Earth to Spot Lead Roofing to Steal

Thieves use Google Earth to spot lead roofs to stealWonder why people are risking their lives tearing copper wires out of electrical substations? At $3.75 a pound (New Jersey prices), copper wire can bring a handsome return to those willing to risk life and limb. The same goes with other metals, including lead ($0.40/lb). In England, computer-savvy thieves have begun to use Google Earth to spot lead roofing to steal.

Even sadder than the thefts is the victim of the thefts; old churches. Lead is a traditional roofing material on many of these historical buildings, most belonging to the Church of England. According to Reuters, approximately 8,000 churches have suffered losses of more than $37 million from lead theft. One church reported having its roof stolen 14 times.There is no reason the same technology couldn't be used here to find lead and copper roofing.

While burglars risk life and limb crawling about on church roofs to steal the dense lead, in this country the same type of miscreants are taking an even greater risk by breaking into electrical substations for copper wire. In one recent Ohio break-in, thieves made away with an estimated $1,700 worth of copper.

Perhaps the most egregious metal thieves, however, are those that steal manhole covers. Again in England, gangs reportedly recently stole more than 500 manhole covers from Surrey County (southwest of London), which cost around $650 each to replace. Each cover weighs more than 175 pounds. The scrap iron would fetch around $11 apiece.

And the same theft occurs in the U.S. Just this month police in High Point, N.C., reported 14 manhole covers stolen. It could be worse, though; in 2004, in Beijing, China, a reported 240,000 manhole and street drain covers were stolen.
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