When the economy is challenging, desperate people resort to desperate measures to make ends meet. During the last recession, theft of low-dollar items, referred to as petty theft, rose by 25% across Britain. With the economy still under pressure, these smaller-scale thefts continue.
According to ABC News, when gas prices are high, the reports of gasoline theft rise. In 2009, more than $89 million in gas was stolen nationwide in schemes ranging from pumping gas and driving away to drilling holes into the bottom of a gas tank.
Gas isn't the only thing stolen when times are rough. Some items are more odd and outlandish.
The price of hogs fluctuates as rapidly as the price of gas. According to Ohio hog farmer Don Moore, when the market is high, a normal-sized hog could sell for more than $200. Time Magazine reports that thieves stole 594 hogs worth more than $100,000 in one heist in 2011.
Because the stolen swine were at market weight and the planning involved in stealing nearly 600 pigs would involve a lot of coordination and equipment, police believe the heist to be a coordinated event executed by sophisticated thieves.
Theft of the laundry detergent Tide has become so widespread that some cities are setting up task forces to catch and prosecute the thieves. Why is only Tide stolen and not Era or other brands? It's because other brands don't have the high-dollar price tag of Tide.
Tide sells for between $10 and $20 per bottle in stores. On the black market, stolen Tide is purchased for $5 to $10 a bottle. It is not only customers who are looking to purchase Tide at a discount; even retailers are making black market purchases of the detergent, according to Fox News.
The theft of copper is still widespread, with thieves stealing copper piping used for plumbing, but another metal is in demand, too. In Chicago, thieves are stealing the brass rings off fire hydrants; these rings are used by firefighters to attach hoses from the fire engine. Not only does it cost the city money to replace the rings, it poses a public safety hazard. Once the rings are stolen, they are sold as scrap for about $15.
Other items including musical instruments, handrails and ornaments in cemeteries have been reported stolen. Although brass and copper aren't the only metals stolen for scrap, they have one of the largest impacts and bring some of the highest prices at scrap yards.
In September, the Quebec Maple Syrup Producers reported the theft of a large quantity of maple syrup. During a routine inventory, workers found 16,000 empty 45 gallon barrels at the province's global strategic reserve located in St-Louis-de-Blandford, Que. The missing syrup, valued at more than $20 million, is the subject of an ongoing police investigation.
Canadian police recently reported the discovery of 600 barrels of the stolen syrup in New Brunswick, but they aren't providing additional details. The syrup was returned to the reserve in a 16-trailer convoy under police escort. Security at the reserve was tightened to prevent future heists.
In a series of heists in Atlanta, Chicago and other cities, thieves broke into beauty supply stores and salons, not to steal money and valuable equipment, but to steal human hair. The hair, which was imported from other countries, was used as weaves, extensions and wigs. It can bring up to $90,000 for thieves reselling it.
The Bottom Line
Bank robberies are so 20th century. Today, enterprising criminals are finding value in everything from gas to hair. As long as the black market has buyers, thieves will find a way to steal even the oddest of items.