|Confiscated copper ready for sale|
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The cable weighed approximately 2.5 kilos. Copper is a valuable commodity and the cables can be sold to scrap merchants at a profit. There are also increasing reports of aluminium cables being stolen as well. “But not only is the theft of cable a criminal offence, it can be extremely dangerous,” a police spokesman said. “There have been instances where culprits have cut through operational cables and this can cause serious injury and even death.”
In La Línea alone, a total of seven kilometers of cable have been stolen in the first seven months of the year - it has cost over €300,000 to replace it. In other places the only solution has been to fill manholes with concrete.
One of the most popular places for stealing cable is on the mortorway, because the stretches between lights are usually long and straight. This, of course, is extremely dangerous to drivers as there are often pools of darkness that can be confusing.
The thieves don't care about danger or even if they are seen. By day or by night, with the street lights on or off, the method is simple: open the manhole cover; cut the cable (sometimes there's a little spark but who cares), tie it to the undercarriage of a car and pull the cables straight out and speed away. Two people can grab a lot of copper in a day.
Then the cables have to be 'peeled' of their rubber covering. Easy: there are specialist junkyards (chatarrerías) who do that by burning it off, but it can be done by hand in a relatively small space.
The price of a kilo of clean copper varies daily from €4 to 4.50 (earlier in the year). However, there are many kinds of material and 'cleanliness'. At junkyard level the price is much lower than that, we're told by local sources. Still, it must be good business or we wouldn't have to put up with so many robberies of it.
In Spain it is not illegal to buy or sell copper but junkyards are supposed to report it if the provenance of material is suspicious. Some do, most don't. If there has been a robbery, chances are that there will be police patrols at and around the junkyards trying to find the culprits.
There are a number of chatarrerías in the Campo de Gibraltar, principally concentrated around Algeciras, but also in La Línea, Los Barrios and San Roque. There are also several desguaces, also scrapyards but usually specialising in taking cars apart (and where it is obligatory to take your car if you want to junk it). The difference between them is minimal.