With scrap iron and steel prices rebounding over the last year, towns, entrepreneurs and salvage yards are making more money. But so, according to some, are crooks.
"Some of the problems we have in the industry out there are people stealing," said Eric Tetler, who owns Windfield Alloy, which has locations in Atkinson and Lawrence.
As commodity prices rise, scrap metal is worth much more than it was a year ago. In some areas, that means tightened security, and thefts.
Lana Borgie, an economist for the producer price index, said the price of iron and steel scrap increased 106.8 percent since March 2009.
"It's gone way up," she said.
Much of that is a rebound from a steep drop in mid-2008, when the financial crisis hit the commodity market, which had been seeing very high prices, she said.
The price of aluminum base scrap also has increased 76.5 percent in the last year, she said.
Tetler said business has been up in recent months. To keep up — and to keep out people who are looking to profit on stolen scrap — Windfield uses technology, he said. Workers photograph what comes to their facility and ask for identification.
"As you're coming in, everything is reported, and it's reported directly into the police station," he said.
Tetler said there have been arrests at his facilities when workers figure out someone is trucking in stolen scrap metal or copper. But for honest people, removing scrap metal — with permission — from yards or curbs can be a nice side business, he said.
"It's a good little niche," Tetler said. "The problem you still get confronted with is, where are they getting this material? Are they jumping over someone's back picket fence to steal their swimming pool?"
He said his business has seen more material arriving in the last few months, after what he said was "a really soft year for everyone in the industry" in 2009. In addition to better prices, government programs rewarding people for upgrading to new appliances — and junking old ones — have contributed to the volume.