When I lived in England, not so long ago, one of the minor pleasures of rural life was walking across a couple of fields, along a public footpath through a copse, discovering a small medieval country church, and going inside to contemplate the divine for a few minutes. In those days, the churches were unlocked. They’re not anymore. Presumably there were local lads who would steal from the Lord even then, but not a significant segment of the population who targeted houses of worship. So today there’s wire mesh over the beautiful (one assumes) stained glass to stop thieves pinching the lead from the windows. It’s a small loss, but a telling one. The police have no leads, and the buildings have no lead. Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it was stolen last Thursday.
– Mark Steyn, on escalating metal thefts in Britain.
Some good news: the price of copper and zinc has fallen hard in global markets, so hopefully my front door-knocker is safer than it was a few months ago. Even so, Steyn’s take on the spate of burglaries is telling. A friend of mine, who lives in south Suffolk, near Sudbury, suddenly found the other day that he could not make phone calls from his landline as copper wires had been stolen. In centuries past, horse-thieves were hanged, as their activities damaged the economic system – horses were vital. We do not hang thieves any more – restitution is arguably a better punishment by getting these folk to put victims right – but such crimes are just not taken seriously enough. In parts of England there are still places where mobile phones do not work very well. If some jackass cuts people off from their landlines and someone has to call the emergency services but cannot do so, stealing copper wires is not just bloody inconvenient, it could play a part in someone actually dying.
Theft of copper wires is not just a British phenomenon…