Copper theft on the rise in crisis-hit Italy

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italy's railways are the main targets for copper thieves. PhotoBeppus/Flickr
17:31 CET+01:00
Italy is cracking down on copper thieves, an ever-growing problem amid rising poverty in the crisis-hit country that has cost the railways alone some €31 million over the last three years.

The national observatory for copper theft on Friday said 2,720 people have been detained for stealing copper in the first six months of 2013 alone - a
41 percent increase from the same period in 2012.

The thefts reached 11,040 - a 12-percent increase.

Copper theft "affects the whole population," said the observatory, which brings together the police and the worst-affected companies - the railways, Telecom Italia, power giant Enel and other electronics firms.

Trains in Italy are sometimes delayed due to thieves stealing signalling cables, but the group said its efforts had helped to bring down slightly the
number of thefts on the railways - by 1.8 percent in the first 10 months of the year from 2012.

The price of a kilo of copper has risen exponentially on international markets in recent years - mainly because of growing demand from China and

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That has made communications and power cables a valuable target, both by major gangs that steal large quantities from depots, as well as small-time thieves.

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