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Copper Cable Theft: Revisiting the Price-Theft Hypothesis

Sidebottom, AL; Ashby, M; Johnson, SD; (2014) Copper Cable Theft: Revisiting the Price-Theft Hypothesis. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency , 51 (1) 684 - 700. 10.1177/0022427814521216. Green open access

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Objectives. To test the commonly espoused but little examined hypothesis that fluctuations in the price of metal are associated with changes in the volume of metal theft. Specifically, we analyze the relationship between the price of copper and the number of police recorded “live” copper cable thefts from the British railway network (2006 – 2012). Methods. Time-series analysis was performed using 76 months of data to determine the association between mean copper price and police recorded “live” copper cable theft. Two rival hypotheses, that changes in the theft of copper cabling reflect changes in the theft of railway property more generally (or the reporting thereof) or variations in the rate of unemployment, were also tested. Results. We find support for the price-theft hypothesis: changes in the price of copper were positively associated with variations in the volume of “live” copper cable theft. A downward trend in copper cable theft in recent years is also observed although the mechanism(s) underpinning this pattern is unclear. Conclusions. The theft of “live” copper cable is associated with fluctuations in copper price. As such, it differs substantially from the “crime drop” typically noted for most types of crime providing further support for the price-theft hypothesis.

Type: Article
Title: Copper Cable Theft: Revisiting the Price-Theft Hypothesis
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/0022427814521216
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0022427814521216
Additional information: © The Author(s) 2014. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (http://www.uk.sagepub.com/aboutus/openaccess.htm).
Keywords: copper theft; crime drop; financial crisis; metal theft;
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Security and Crime Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1419581
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