Copper and Crime

Researching a book can lead authors down a proverbial rabbit hole when they stumble upon an issue of interest. Such was the case for me when I decided to look into copper thefts.

While writing Styled for Murder, my latest book, I got stuck in the middle. I needed a spark of inspiration to spur the story forward, something exciting to research. When I shared my dilemma with my critique partners, one of them mentioned copper thefts. My book involved remodeling scams and this topic came to mind.

Bingo! I’d heard of this crime, and it would fit the story perfectly. As I delved into the research, I discovered all sorts of new twists. I was off and running and didn’t stop until the end. This had been exactly the spark I’d needed. So what is this crime that can affect average residents like us?

Copper is a valuable commodity. Crooks sell it to scrap metal dealers for a high price. Construction sites are favored targets along with abandoned buildings. Crooks have plenty of time after workers leave for the day to sneak in and strip out whatever they want. They can cause a lot of harm that way.

In one instance, thieves ripped open the walls on a building scheduled for demolition. They cut out the copper pipes and wires. Unfortunately, they didn’t turn off the main water valve, and the construction company had to pay for the resultant utility bill. Builders have to balance the cost of security against the potential replacement of stolen goods along with damage repairs.

Why do bad guys target copper in particular? This metal is used in critical infrastructures such as electrical sub-stations, cell towers, phone lines and water systems. Copper provides a reliable connection and is corrosion resistant. Thieves can make thousands of dollars per month from selling copper to scrap metal dealers.

“How does this affect the homeowner?” Marla, my hairstylist sleuth, asked her friend Tally while at lunch in a restaurant. 

Tally snorted. “Your central air-conditioning units may use copper piping for the water supply and refrigerant lines along with the inner coils. If the thieves take these components, you might come home one day and have no air-conditioning. The metal is also found on propane tanks. Thieves might cut the pipes at ground level near the meters and then rip away the piping. Your house would lose its gas supply, meaning you’d turn on the range and nothing would happen.” 

“I’d be more afraid of a dangerous leak caused by a cut pipe. Doesn’t a security system offer protection against people stealing this stuff outside your house?” Marla asked, thinking of the video cameras and exterior lighting around her place. 

“Nope. I remember reading about a case where a man took ten minutes to crawl beneath a house and cut out a hundred feet of plumbing pipes using a plumber’s tool. They’re fast, so by the time you receive an alert, they’re already gone. Nothing is ever secure to a determined criminal.”

Fortunately, new regulations have made scrap dealers more responsible, which has been helpful in preventing these thefts. Being an alert and observant neighbor is always a good idea, too.

We learn all sorts of eclectic things when researching a story. I hope this information has been as illuminating for you as it has been for me. Are you aware of any construction problems in your area?

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STYLED FOR MURDER is mentioned in Woman’s World Magazine on page 8 in the Nov. 29th issue! They call it a “charmingly funny whodunit.” Get your copy NOW at your local newsstand. Last chance before the next issue comes out.

Books make great gifts for the holidays! Get one for yourself and gift another to a friend.

STYLED FOR MURDER by Nancy J. Cohen

When hairstylist and savvy sleuth, Marla Vail, gets a frantic call from her mother that there’s a dead body in her shower, Marla realizes this wasn’t part of the home renovation plans. The victim turns out to be the project manager, who had an untrustworthy reputation in town. Disgruntled customers, unpaid suppliers, and the design company’s staff are among the suspects, but Marla is more concerned about her stepfather’s connection to the victim. Can she flush out the clues and nail the killer before he strikes again? Recipes Included!

Get your Copy Here – https://books2read.com/StyledforMurder

Did you miss out on these guest blog posts? If so, visit them now! 

Cinnamon and Sugar and a Little Bit of Murder, “Peach Cobbler” RECIPE, BOOK REVIEW & GIVEAWAY, https://cinnamonsugarandalittlebitofmurder.com/peach-cobbler/

Literary Gold – CHARACTER GUEST POST, https://www.literaryau.com/2021/11/styled-for-murder.html

Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers – “Is Garlic Good for You?” GUEST POST https://insatiablereaders.blogspot.com/2021/11/great-escapes-virtual-book-tours.html

Books a Plenty Book Reviews – “Edible Gold” GUEST POST https://booksaplentybookreviews.blogspot.com/2021/11/blog-tour-guest-post-review-giveaway.html

Christy’s Cozy Corners – AUTHOR INTERVIEW https://christyscozycorners.com/2021/11/styled-murder-mysteries-interview/

Novels Alive – “Bone China Origins” GUEST POST https://novelsalive.com/2021/11/17/guest-blog-bone-china-origins-by-nancy-j-cohen-plus-giveaway/

 Dru’s Book Musings – “A Day in The Life of Marla Vail” GUEST POST https://drusbookmusing.com/2021/11/17/marla-vail-2021/

 Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – AUTHOR INTERVIEW https://www.escapewithdollycas.com/2021/11/16/styled-for-murder-bad-hair-day-mysteries-by-nancy-j-cohen-authorinterview-review-giveaway-great-escapes-book-tour-nancyjcohen/

Storeybook Reviews – “Book Research Can Save Lives” GUEST POST https://storeybookreviews.com/2021/11/newrelease-guest-post-styled-for-murder/

 My Journey Back – “Zucchini, Eggs and Criminals” RECIPE POST http://myjourneyback-thejourneyback.blogspot.com/2021/11/zucchini-biscuit-bake-recipe-and.html?

Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers, “The Case of the Cheesy Hash Browns” RECIPE POST https://anastasiapollack.blogspot.com/2021/11/cooking-with-cloris-cheesy-hash-browns.html

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Last Chance to get Permed to Death ON SALE for 99 cents! Start reading the Bad Hair Day series with book #1. Sale ends soon.

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I’m going to take a break from blogs over the Holidays unless something noteworthy occurs, so Have a Wonderful and Safe Holiday Season!

Nancy

 

 

Bisbee Copper Queen Mine

Entering a copper mine deep inside a mountain was one of the more awesome things we did on our trip to Arizona. Gathering inside the main building at the Bisbee Copper Queen Mine, we explored the rocks for sale inside the gift shop until our group was called.

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We were each given a brass tag with a number, like a real miner. These would survive in case of an explosion or cave-in to identify the bodies. This was called “brassing in” when miners reported for duty. At the end of his shift, the miner would turn his tag back in to the timekeeper. Here’s a replica from the Bisbee historical museum of the timekeeper’s station.

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Then we each went along an assembly line to get outfitted. With assistance from a seasoned miner, we donned yellow slickers, lights around our necks, belts and helmets. From here, we boarded a tram for our ride into the mountain. We sat astride like on a horse. A bell clanged, and the tram jerked forward. A gap yawned in front of us as we moved ahead. Wheels creaked as we entered a dark tunnel with chiseled rock walls.

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We glimpsed other passages leading off into pitch blackness as we rattled deeper into the interior. Rocks glistened in places from crystals. Dust-covered ore carts and discarded tools lay about. The only way we could see in the dark was with our lights. Wood supports shored up the walls at intervals. Loose rock was “barred” or secured behind metal bars.

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This mine, unlike others, was cool with a temperature in the fifties. That’s because air flows in from outside. We rode horizontally into the mountain. Other mines go straight down. Those mines are hotter and need air pumped in. This one evolved from a natural hole and was discovered by army scouts in 1877. Because methane gas wasn’t a danger here, miners could smoke in these tunnels. However, the men had to hand roll their cigarettes so they would go out if dropped.

Riding on the tram, I felt someone tap my head. I twisted around. My husband hadn’t done it. Who, then? A ghost? Mines were rife with accidents: explosions, cave-ins, tumbles down the shaft, falling rock. Who knew how many workers had died there? Unexpectedly, lots of orbs showed on some of my photos. Spiritual entities or dust motes? More scenes from the museum.

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Eventually we came to a stop and got off at a big dug-out chamber where our guide explained about mining methods. Miners worked by candlelight and swung a pickax to break off rock from the walls. If the rock was too hard, they drilled holes in the rock using a steel drill bit and a sledgehammer. They’d put in a stick of dynamite and light the fuse. This broke up the rock and expanded the tunnel. They’d transport the ore to chutes. It went down into ore carts which were pulled by mules. The mules lived in the mines. When their time was up, they were taken to the surface with blinders on and their vision gradually restored so they didn’t go blind from the brightness.

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We saw the metal toilets where early miners did their business as they toiled for 12 hour shifts underground. Those seats must have been chilly!

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If a miner needed to reach the surface, he’d tug a rope pull by a cage. The cage operator would send down the open wood platform. We saw the boss’s tricycle (or similar conveyance) by which he checked on his men twice a day.

They pumped in air and water. The water cut down on dust, which could damage the lungs. The compressed air was used in machinery-operated drills once they became available. Today, the mines are tested for radon gas. Other types of mines have to be tested for air and methane gas. You can light a candle to see if there’s air flow. Parakeets were used to detect dangerous gases. Miners would equip themselves with a helmet, candles and matches, lunch pail, and sometimes a survival kit or gas mask.

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Copper doesn’t deposit in veins like gold. It’s mixed in the ore, so processing techniques are needed to separate it from other substances. It would have been sent to a stamp mill for crushing and refining. Side products could be gold, silver, zinc, lead, and other minerals.

I learned a lot more when we went to the history museum in Bisbee, after a pleasant lunch in town. Bisbee is built among the hills and has some interesting shops and restaurants as well as a historic hotel.

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I won’t bore you with further details about mining, but they were fascinating. The method used today is called the open pit technique. You can see the results at the Lavender Pit. It’s not a pretty sight.

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Disclaimer: Any inaccuracies are due to my note taking and not the information presented.

You can see more photos here: http://fw.to/SB2DmEH

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How does this relate to my story? In Peril by Ponytail, Marla and Dalton are staying at an Arizona dude ranch owned by his uncle. Raymond is also renovating a ghost town that used to be a former copper mining camp. Marla’s exploration of a hillside where a worker vanished leads to an astounding discovery. Consider the information above and use your imagination to determine where Marla and Dalton find themselves next.

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November Booklover’s Bench Contest Nov. 4 – Nov. 18
Enter to win a $25 Amazon or BN gift card or one of six runner-up ebook prizes, including a pdf copy of Warrior Rogue. http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

Year-End Splash Party at The Romance Reviews; November 1-30 (Look for my prize, a Kindle copy of Shear Murder, on Nov. 25!) http://www.theromancereviews.com/event.php