They Stole What?

A historic church in downtown Washington lost part of its protection against lightning late last month as a result of a type of crime that has been widely reported in recent months in the Washington area and around the nation. The crime is copper theft.

In one hard-hit area, Prince William County, two copper thefts were reported to police last week. Someone had taken apart an air-conditioning unit outside a house in Dumfries and stolen copper components, police were told Oct. 5. In the same county, police received a report Oct. 3 of the theft of piping from a water heater and washing machine from a house in the Woodbridge/Dale City area.

Those incidents followed eight reports of copper piping stolen from houses in the county last month and 13 thefts or attempted thefts of copper piping from houses in the county in August.

Authorities have linked the crimes to the price paid for scrap copper, which, according to charts available online, was more than $4 a pound at times during the summer. It has since fallen closer to $3. Even so, copper remains an attractive target for would-be burglars, thieves and vandals who have sawed off pipes, snipped electrical wires and, in at least one case, removed a statue from a cemetery.

The thieves are in business, but are the miners? It is worth us asking how many potential jobs are prevented, and how much wealth we are forgoing, because of EPA regulations and environmental lawsuits. We see again this trade-off: job creation vs. environmental protection.

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