Metal thefts on the rise due to poor economy

MILWAUKEE -- Deserted homes and buildings are prime targets for burglars looking to make some quick cash. Many are laden with valuable metals, easily turned into money at scrap yards. But with metal disappearing all over the city, Milwaukee police are trying to stop the desperate criminals before they start.

49-year-old David Hoskins is among a growing group of repeat offenders caught breaking in and taking metals. Police say they caught Hoskins red-handed Monday night leaving an empty business with a box of copper piping. Police say Hoskins' reasons for the burglary are not clear, but police believe many criminals have the same motive. "They're either doing it just for extra money, or to help their addiction to drugs," Milwaukee Police Captain Leslie Thiele said.

Art Arnsteen is the owner of Milwaukee United Scrap. He's seen criminals break into his scrap yard on an almost nightly basis, to steal metal. As a dealer himself, Arnsteen says he does his best to avoid stolen materials, taking pictures and requiring photo IDs from every customer. "People have to feed their children and put gas and electric to keep heat. I think they have become almost desperate to do that, and so every sale is recorded," Arnsteen said.

Arnsteen says the bad economy and good people's desperation are the driving forces behind metal thefts. He argues the only way to solve the problem is by focusing on job creation, but he says he doesn't agree with people stealing. "We continue to try to catch people who break the law. I don't think anyone should break the law," Arnsteen said.