NASHVILLE, Tenn. - In the spring, Metro police were reporting 50-60 copper thefts a week.
With the economy in recession and a new law in place -- six months can make quite a difference.
Somebody once said one man's rain is another's sunshine. Nothing could truer in the metals industry. Prices are dropping.
"The big picture is the worldwide demand for all of the metals like copper, aluminum, steel has dropped drastically and the prices have fallen in excess of 50 to 70 percent based on the type metal that it is," said Dom Marchitto of Metal Management in Nashville and president of the Tennessee Scrap Metal Recyclers Association.
Copper cost nearly $4 a pound in the spring. And for several months it stayed that way until September when the bottom fell out.
This week, it's selling for $1.62 a pound. The price drop is like a dark cloud over metal salvage companies.
Many of them have cut hours and in some cases even pay.
Earlier this year, there were also reporter incidences of copper theft.
Last year, Ray Holman was among the victims. Someone stole copper components from his company's cooling unit in Madison.
"We saw that it had been ripped open and the copper taken out of it and we called the police out to have a report filed," he said.
Holman and anyone else who has a heating and air unit can rest easier. The stormy metal economy has dampened the enthusiasm of copper thieves.
"What we're dealing with here is criminals looking to make an easy buck," said Metro Lt. Danny Driskell.
He said a year ago East Precinct reported a dozen copper thefts a week. In the past two months, there's been only one.
Driskell thinks besides the economy tougher laws regulating who can sell copper have also helped.
The forecast is for more of the same, which is either good or bad news. It depends who you are.
"The forecast right now for November into December looks bleak based on the non-usage by steel mills or auto companies in the U. S.," Marchitto said.
Police think the new law regulating the sale of metals has had a big affect.
Sellers have to give a photo ID and a thumbprint to the salvage companies before they can do business.
The information is kept on file. Cash transactions are out.
The companies give sellers vouchers or checks in the mail.
The two big salvage companies in Nashville have gone even further to help with copper theft. With the help of police they've put together a no-buy list. Anyone with a prior history of theft or burglary cannot sell copper to them.