Quote by Bruce Schneier:These crimes are a harbinger of the future: evolutionary pressure on our society, if you will. Criminals are often referred to as social parasites; they leech off society but provide no useful benefit. But they are an early warning system of societal changes. Unfettered by laws or moral restrictions, they can be the first to respond to changes that the rest of society will be slower to pick up on. In fact, currently there's a reprieve. Scrap metal prices are all down from last year's—copper is currently $1.62 per pound, and lead is half what Berge got—and thefts are down along with them.
We've designed much of our infrastructure around the assumptions that commodities are cheap and theft is rare. We don't protect transmission lines, manhole covers, iron fences, or lead flashing on roofs. But if commodity prices really are headed for new higher stable points, society will eventually react and find alternatives for these items—or find ways to protect them. Criminals were the first to point this out, and will continue to exploit the system until it restabilizes.
Everything changes when you can't leave your infrastructure unguarded. Forget terrorists and important points of failure, our roads become incredibly dangerous without manhole covers. Recently some new power lines were run near my father's place, and they had 24/7 security to prevent people from stealing the copper wire before it was installed. Even after it was installed, the power lines were ensconced in concrete and laid a metre underground. There's no way that's doing anything good to the cost of installation.