Commodity theft’s cost to society

Bruce Schneier notes that the resale value of a stolen commodity like lead tile or copper wiring is considerably less than the cost to society to replace it, even when black market prices increase and further incentivize theft.  Security measures to protect these assets are deemed “a tax on the honest” by Schneier, and they add a further toll on top of the costs to replace/rebuild.  Nothing metal is exempt, to include manhole covers and — of all things — an entire steel bridge in Ukraine.  As a society we’re going to have to decide which is cheapest: factoring in theft as a sunk cost of doing business, securing and protecting materials from theft, or moving away altogether from commodities that have street value.  An uncertain economic climate is likely to bring more such stealing, not less.


One Response to “Commodity theft’s cost to society”

  1. soubriquet Says:

    I read the article a few days ago, it is, of course, so true.
    The company I work for has suffered from the theft of lead from a roof. The thieves took maybe thirty punds weight of lead flashings, these are the lead strips that seal the edges of the roof between tile and stone walls. Before the theft was discovered, we had heavy rain. Below that roof was a recording studiou, with sound insulated ceiling and walls, and an isolated, floating hardwood floor. Oh. And a whole heap of electronics, mixers, digital recording gear, cd duplicators etcetera.
    The place was drenched. Ceilings collapsed, power circuits blew, the floor had to be ripped out.
    The thieves got maybe fourty pounds tops for the lead, the damage? over thirty thousand pounds, and the guys with the studio?
    Six or more weeks without their business premises in their first year of trading, a deadline for their first big contract missed, it could spell disaster for them.
    Even if the thieves were apprehended, it’s unlikely any sentence awarded would truly reflect the damage they cause.

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