Recurring Themes 

The economic slowdown and rising prices for scrap metals have provoked desperation and creativity among down-market criminals. A 42-year-old man was arrested in his car heading for a metals-recycling center in Miami in July with a 40-foot-long municipal street lamp strapped to the roof. And police in Williamsburg, Ky., easily tracked the stolen railroad rail in August, which was so heavy that it left gouge marks in the pavement as the thieves dragged it away. And the badly burned man found in July by police on a utility pole in northwest Dallas died days later (one of several who so far this year have tried, unsuccessfully, to safely remove copper wire from power poles).

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