Cop­per theft on the rise

Va­cant homes at great­est risk

The Covington News - - LOCAL NEWS - By Tyler Smith

As the price of cop­per has in­creased so has the num­ber of thefts of the pre­cious metal in New­ton County.

“ Price per pound of cop­per has in­creased in past few years,” said New­ton County Sher­iff ’s Lt. Bill Wat­ter­son. “ Which has made it more at­trac­tive to crim­i­nals. It’s an easy way to make fast money.”

Once the crim­i­nals have the cop­per, it can be very dif­fi­cult for po­lice or cop­per re­cy­cling plants to know the ma­te­rial was stolen.

“ It’s hard to trace be­cause most of the ma­te­rial has no se­rial num­ber,” Wat­ter­son said.

Most stolen cop­per comes in the form of a wire which can be used in ev­ery­thing from air con­di­tioner units to power ground lines. Usu­ally peo­ple who steal the metal are at least some­what familiar with wiring.

“If the av­er­age per­son took apart an air con­di­tioner unit, they wouldn’t know what parts to steal and parts were not valu­able,” Wat­ter­son said. “Most of the time th­ese peo­ple are familiar with the equip­ment they are steal­ing from.”

But when thieves are unfamiliar with the equip­ment, the con­se­quences can be dire.

“ Peo­ple have been killed try­ing to get ground wires out,” Wat­ter­son said.

At least one man has died in the area this year from at­tempt­ing to steal a cop­per ground wire from a cell tower.

“ We have re­ally seen an in­crease in the last two years,” Wat­ter­son said. “ But most of what we see comes from peo­ple who live around here. It’s not peo­ple that are com­ing into the county. Other coun­ties around here are hav­ing the same prob­lems with their lo­cals. With the way the econ­omy is lately and peo­ple get­ting laid off, a lot of th­ese peo­ple are just try­ing to sur­vive.”

Though cop­per wiring can be found al­most any­where, Wat­ter­son said va­cant house are the most fre­quent tar­gets. This can be ei­ther a house which has been aban­doned or a house which is still un­der con­struc­tion.

Wat­ter­son sug­gests con­trac­tors mark com­po­nents which are valu­able with some sort of iden­ti­fier which will alert cop­per re­cy­clers the item is stolen.

Cop­per thieves seem to be branch­ing out more as of late, Wat­ter­son said. Last week the Starrsville United Methodist Church had cop­per stolen from five of their air con­di­tioner units.

For those whose cop­per wiring is al­ready in­stalled, keep­ing a vig­i­lant eye may be the best pol­icy.

“ See if your neigh­bors can keep an eye for you,” Wat­ter­son said. “ Most of­ten th­ese peo­ple are go­ing to be pretty ob­vi­ous. They are not go­ing to be wear­ing re­pair­men suits or any­thing. If they see some­thing un­usual, they should call 911.”

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