I have written previously about rising metal theft as an indicator of continued inflation and its impact on real estate prices.
Recent news reports indicate that metal theft not only continues unabated in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, but that it has become more brazen and is being done at great risk to the thieves:
- In Cranberry Township (near Pittsburgh) thousands of residents remain without power because thieves (at great physical risk) stole "all the copper groundwire" at a substation on Route 19.
- SEPTA riders in Chester, Montgomery and Delaware Counties have been victimized by thefts of catalytic converters while their cars were parked in SEPTA lots during the day.
- Thieves near San Francisco knocked down 300 utility poles in order to steal copper wire and also stole an entire transformer - at great risk to themselves.
- In Sacramento, thieves have stolen a large number of brass components of fire suppression systems from commercial businesses.
- Pipe thieves near Detroit have caused possibly four house explosions by stealing the natural gas pipes from residential dwellings.
- Numerous churches near Miami have lost the use of their air conditioning when copper thieves stole copper tubing and wiring from a/c units.
- In early June, thieves caused a CSX train to de-rail in Massachusetts by stealing steel rails from the railroad line.
These cases are not simply an indication of rising crime due to the economic downturn. Metal theft is a specific type of crime that exists solely because inflation has pushed commodity prices higher. Metal theft goes hand-in-hand with an increase in legitimate scrap dealers, companies that offer to buy your gold on late night infomercials, rising gasoline and food prices and other commodity based activity.
Remember, commodity prices affect the economy as a whole. The real estate crash of 2006-2008 was accompanied by a major commodity price increase.
The market for commodities is robust, as the smart money flees the dollar (or defies physical and legal danger) in favor of hard assets. The desperation with which thieves now target metal provides specific evidence that inflation is out of control. All real estate investment decisions must accept this reality.