Monday, August 11, 2014

The 10 Weirdest Things Thieves Steal

Original source :
Posted : February 2014
Author : Thomas C. Frohlich

Cars, smartphones, jewelry and cash are among the many valuable items most people expect thieves to target. As a result, Americans take precautions to keep such possessions safe. Not many, however, would think to lock up their Nutella, pregnancy tests or Tide laundry detergent. Yet, these everyday, ordinary household products are among the most commonly stolen goods. Some stolen items seem unusual because their value is not easily visible. For example, thieves steal catalytic converters for the platinum. Frank Scafidi of the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) gave the example of manhole covers, as well as a variety of other metal objects, that are often stolen to be resold as scrap metal. Incidents of these kinds of theft have risen considerably, likely due to the rising price of metals like copper, and platinum.

Similarly, the production of maple syrup relies heavily on weather patterns. With poor sugaring conditions in recent years, the price of sap and maple syrup have risen considerably, increasing the potential reward for thieves targeting the product. Another grocery item, steak, has also become more vulnerable to shoplifting due to rising prices. Another explanation for unusual incidents of theft is unmet demand. In the case of shrubbery theft, for example, collectors are willing to pay large sums for rare and valuable plants – even illegally. Nutella, which is relatively expensive and in high demand, is a commonly stolen product, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

According to Rich Mellor, senior advisor at the National Retail Federation (NRF), the “easiest thing to steal is getting stolen, not necessarily for its desirability.” So, while intrinsic value and price increases are important factors, a thief ultimately wants to avoid getting caught. 24/7 Wall St. consulted the National Retail Federation and the National Insurance Crime Bureau to identify a variety of commonly stolen objects. We also reviewed various news sources to identify 10 of the strangest things thieves steal. These are the 10 weirdest things thieves steal.

1. Laundry detergent
Procter & Gamble and Arm & Hammer are not the only ones to discover the value in laundry detergent. Thieves have too. This relatively expensive everyday household product is found in nearly every home, which can partly explain its appeal as a stolen good. Consistent demand makes a product much easier to sell. In particular, Tide - a recognized, easy to spot brand - is traded on a regular basis for drugs, other illicit items, and sometimes right back to stores looking for better profit margins. Additionally, the lack of serial numbers on the packaging makes detergents very difficult to track.

2. Allergy medicine
Among organized retail crime gangs allergy medicines in particular have become quite popular, according to a 2013 crime survey conducted by the NRF. Part of the value of allergy medications may be the consistently high demand for the product, as many people suffer from allergies. According to Rich Muller at the NRF, however, people are often more willing to suffer through allergy symptoms than buy antihistamines. As a result, a cheaper, boosted product has more success among consumers. While recreational use of antihistamines could be another explanation, stolen allergy medicines are re-sold primarily for intended use.

3. Pregnancy tests
Pregnancy tests were among the most shoplifted items last year, according to the NRF. Younger thieves may lift pregnancy tests to avoid embarrassment. According to the NRF, however, the tests are targeted by organized crime groups for their resale value. Like detergent, demand for this product is so consistent that they can be sold for near-retail prices.

4. Catalytic converters
Among the base metals popular at scrap yards are platinum, rhodium and palladium, all of which can be components in catalytic converters. The price of these metals has risen considerably in recent years, which may partly explain the rise in catalytic converter theft. Platinum prices, for example, have risen substantially, from around $1,000 per ounce five years ago to just under $1,400 per ounce this month. Catalytic converter theft has become so widespread in places like California, that the state passed laws that mandate documentation of the car part’s sales. According to Frank Scafidi of the NICB, however, there is only so much legislation can do without proper enforcement. Recyclers can easily recognize when they are dealing with criminals, but have little incentive to turn them away.

5. Manhole covers
Weighing more than 300 pounds in some cases, and typically located on lit and visible streets, manhole covers do not seem like a worthwhile steal at first. But in the last few years, as base metal prices have risen, so have thefts of manhole covers. Thieves have been known to disguise themselves as construction workers and make off with the large discs single-handedly. In countries such as Colombia, where stealing manhole covers has become quite common, thieves have customized trucks with holes in the floors to steal the covers more discreetly. In addition to the costs incurred by utilities and municipalities from these thefts, missing manhole covers cause considerable danger to the public. Relatively high prices for base metals such as iron have encouraged thieves to commit a variety of other unusual crimes, including the theft of fire hydrant caps, gravesite vases, and stadium bleachers, likely to be sold for scrap. Manhole covers are typically made of iron, while many other valued items contain copper, also coveted among thieves, as its price has roughly doubled since 2009. The metal is essential in plumbing, electrical systems, and fiber optics.

6. Nutella
Stolen Nutella has been reported over the world. In Germany, around 11,000 pounds of Nutella, a popular hazelnut spread, valued roughly at $20,000, was lifted from a parked cargo truck last year. Around the same time, a Nutella-related crisis emerged at Columbia University. After students successfully petitioned to have Nutella offered in the cafeteria, they proceeded to steal it at unsustainable rates - about 100 pounds a day. As a result, the school incurred unexpected expenses. Nutella theft is likely the result of its high cost combined with high demand.

7. Sap
Producing maple syrup is a labor intensive process. About 40 gallons of sap are required to produce one gallon of syrup, which sells for many times the equivalent amount of oil. Harvesting sap, which depends on a pattern of cooling and thawing, has become more challenging with the unusual weather conditions in recent years. In 2012, there was a large-scale heist in Quebec, which produces much of the world’s maple syrup. Thieves stole millions of dollars worth of syrup from a Canadian warehouse, leading to more than a dozen arrests.

8. Shrubbery
House and porch plants are not typically thought of as valuable and worthwhile targets of theft. Potted plants and small landscape features, however, can be vulnerable to thieves. In recent years, there have been numerous cases of shrubbery theft where potted plants went missing and ordinary lawns were left damaged. These petty thefts may not be part of organized crime operations, but plant values can reach extreme highs. According to The Guardian, there is a legal ornamental plant market worth billions of dollars, and the high demand among collectors attracts illicit activity. The most coveted plants are species of rare orchid and cacti. Some plants traded on the black market are of endangered species and can be hundreds of years old. Cycads can be worth more than a $1,000 per specimen and are frequently stolen around the world.

9. Small boats
During the summer months, when boats are parked on the water or in backyards, it is common for thieves to break in and lift fishing equipment, electronics, and other accessories from the boat. Although it seems the boat itself would be safe, small privately owned boats are surprisingly susceptible to theft, particularly due to their size. Many are stored on trailers, ready to be hitched and driven to the lake and making it surprisingly easy for thieves to make off with them. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, there were more than 1,400 boat thefts in Florida in 2012, more than in any other state, and more than 5,800 such thefts nationwide. That year, jet skis were particularly popular among thieves.

10. Steak
Several years of drought in the U.S. have hampered food production across the board, lowering farm yield from corn and cattle. With lower supplies, in addition to rising demand for beef overseas, the value of the meat has risen considerably. Steak, one of the more coveted and expensive cuts of beef has also become more popular as the economy has recovered. When prices go up, thieves m make a profit from stolen goods, and steak is no exception. But theft is increasing at every stage of the production process. According to an NPR newscast last year, cattle theft increased dramatically from the year before, with more than 10,000 cows or horses going missing in 2013.

~Blog Admin~

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