5 Weird Things People Are Stealing While the Economy’s in Bad Shape

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Robbing a bank is so unoriginal. Because of a combination of an economy in horrific shape and the rising monetary value of certain goods, materials, and, believe it or not, creatures, many thieves are choosing unusual targets to steal, and then flip them for a quick profit.
Swine swindling! The fact that pork prices have soared to all-time highs must have helped enticed thieves to steal about 1,000 pigs from farms in Minnesota and Iowa. In one of the heists, 594 hogs, worth more than $100,000 disappeared. Apparently, the hog rustlers knew exactly which pigs to take: The stolen pigs were just the right size to sell at market, and the scale and planning involved show that this was a carefully planned operation. “You couldn’t just walk into a barn and take 150 pigs out in 10 minutes,” one farmer said. “It would take 30 to 45 minutes, at least, if you had a few people working the hogs.”

The American Kennel Club reported a sharp spike in dog-napping during the first seven months of 2011. There were 224 dogs stolen during that time period, compared to just 150 over the same span in 2010—a rise of 49%. Through all of 2008 and 2009, meanwhile, only 71 and 162 dogs, respectively, were reported stolen. What with the rising value of many dog breeds—especially smaller ones, which are also easier to steal—an AKC spokesperson explained why more people are stealing dogs this way: “The motivation is money and economics.”

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Thieves in the Chicago area have been popping open fire hydrants and stealing the brass rings inside, presumably to sell off to a scrap buyer for about $15 a piece. Firefighters need these rings for attaching their hoses, so the thefts by this “ring ring” pose a serious danger to residents. There has also recently been at least one instance of brass being stolen from a cemetery: An ornate brass vase connected by a chain was removed from the gravesite of a World War II marine buried in New Mexico. The flowers at the grave were stolen too.

Talk about extreme couponing! To save serious money with coupons, many, many coupons are needed. How does one get dozens, even hundreds of coupons? Well, one way is to steal coupons out of newspapers, or right out of people’s mail boxes.

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Human Hair
In a series of incidents in Atlanta, Chicago, and other cities, teams of thieves have broken into salons and beauty supply stores specifically to steal human hair, which is often imported from Malaysia and India, and is used for trendy weaves, wigs, and extensions. The criminals have resorted to smash-and-grab thefts, and even ramming trucks into storefronts in order to complete their hair heists. How much could the hair really be worth? In one instance, thieves made off with $70K to $90K worth of hair—which explains why they didn’t bother touching the cash register at all.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.