Something had gone wrong in the giant radio tower. Will Payne of Payne Media Group got an alert from his utility company in the middle of the night telling him he was maxed out. But it wasn’t until he arrived at the site around 5 a.m., in sub-zero temperatures, that he realized what had happened.

The tower in question, a 499-foot mast in the middle of a field in Hugo, Oklahoma, was as tall as the United Nations building in New York. He broadcasts K95.5 — a radio station for Oklahoma and Texas that plays “continuous country.”

It was still dark outside when Payne pulled up, but his truck’s headlights picked up something on the ground.

He couldn’t believe it. The upper half of the tower was in ruins. A broken mess White and red painted steel. Payne could also see that the small building at the base of the tower had collapsed. He pulled his truck back and called the cops.

“It’s your worst nightmare,” says Payne, who inspected the ruins later that morning, discovering that meters and meters of inch-thick coaxial copper cable had apparently been stolen from the broken mast, which had been pulled by power tools. was torn from “I built this tower in 2017, and so, it’s brand new to me. It’s just heartbreaking.”

Metal theft is on the rise, mostly linked to Increase in commodity prices. Copper is about 30 percent more expensive than it was five years ago, for example, while steel 200% increase During the pandemic, though, prices have come down significantly over the past two years. Thus, thieves have swiped everything from drain covers to miles of copper cable. The roads that connect people, the infrastructure that civilization depends on—all are fair game for metal bandits. The disruption it causes is often completely disproportionate to the value of the stolen material.

As the world electrifies, and as we become more and more dependent on machinery loaded with copper, steel and precious metals, this form of theft is becoming more serious. Meanwhile, victims are left wondering—is there no way to stop it?

Metal theft is certainly nothing new. For example, historians believe that along with gold and precious stones, ancient thieves Stolen metal razor blade From the tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun. These instruments were probably melted down and traded.

Because our lives depend entirely on metal infrastructure, theft is more damaging than it is today. Earlier this month, metal thieves Hit the German railway systemtemporarily “paralyzes” it.

There have been reports in India that A A 1 km long metal fence is being stolen. From a major highway, and there was a whole bridge. Reportedly stolen in 2022.. Cable theft on the transit network in South Africa is so rampant that academics are writing papers on how it is. It affected the free flow of traffic. in the country. And some thieves are also stealing metal plaques from tombstones in cemeteries—this has happened in both. United Kingdom And United States.