Police in San Jose and Santa Clara have arrested more than 140 people yesterday in a massive copper theft bust, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The arrests come after a year-long undercover investigation titled "Operation Meltdown" in which undercover police officers set up their own recycling business in Santa Clara called Jose Clara Co-op. Since April 2007, they received 28,000 pounds of copper, with a street value of $96,000. In the process, officers also saw stolen cars, assault weapons, and even cell phone-triggered bombs.
As reported in the Express today, scrap metal recycling has become big business to thieves - mainly "methamphetamine addicts who swipe reachable, removable wires, pipes, or gutters and sell them to junkyards willing to turn a blind eye." The trend is driven by the international demand for non-ferrous metals and the number of drug addicts looking for a quick fix. As one policer officer stated, it's unlikely thieves will stop soon as long as there are recyclers willing to buy.