THIEVES are lining their pockets with proceeds from copper and other metals as they hit business after business, taking thousands of dollars worth of material each month.
The problem has become so widespread in the region that one Murray Bridge scrap metal recycling business owner says he is being punished for any cooperation he gives police when people try to pass off stolen goods.
Enviro-Scrap Metal owner Shannon Watson said he believed a fire which destroyed 35 cars, a truck, machinery and fencing at his business on November 8 was arson in retaliation for providing police with such information.
"If we report (possible stolen goods) there are repercussions - we get broken into, we get vandalised," he said.
"The recent case of fire was arson."
Mr Watson described the stealing of scrap metal in the area as prolific and said he heard story after story from local business owners who were struggling with the thefts.
"This time of year is worse as people want money to spend for Christmas it seems," he said.
"It is not just businesses with scrap metal that are the target - farmers are reporting fuel stolen from their properties."
Mr Watson said his business was required by law to keep any scrap metal for seven days and the police had the right to visit and look at their books.
Cronin Mechanical owner Bruce Cronin said his engineering business had been hit regularly by thieves since opening its doors on the corner of Eleanor Terrace and Maurice Road two years ago - and he has had enough.
He said thieves took anything they could sell for scrap metal - from odds and ends to starter motors and radiators - from environmental bins kept on the property and in the past six months alone had taken thousand of dollars worth of material.
“The scrap dealer supplies us with the bins and buy the scrap metal from us - a full bin is worth about $400 to $500 each time,” he said.
“ Last night (Thursday) they took a couple of hubs probably worth $500 each.
“It has progressively got worse in the past six months.”
Mr Cronin said he was fed up with the thefts and was considering installing outside security.
“It is not the people who are broke or down and out that take it - these people have utes and they case the joints,” he said.
Graham Modra, of Murray Bridge Car and 4WD, said the problem was so widespread that if the business did not lock away anything that could be labelled scrap metal then it would be taken.
“We have a skip bin we used to get emptied monthly for the first four months we had it,” he said.
Mr Modra said while the same amount of material continues to go into the bin, they had not had it emptied in the past 14 months as the scrap metal kept disappearing.
“Anything more valuable like copper and aluminium we now have to leave inside,” he said.
“It may not be a million-dollar crime but it is annoying and there is plenty of money involved.”