Ark. Police See Rise in Copper Thefts

July 5, 2006

Record prices for copper have made the metal an attractive target for thieves in Arkansas, police say, just as it is elsewhere in the country.

Little Rock police say copper thefts are “rampant.” Thieves even worked on an Entergy substation just behind the downtown police station, pulling copper from the installation, though they got nabbed.

“That’s how bold they are,” said Sgt. Terry Hastings, spokesman for the city department.

Twice, copper wire worth thousands of dollars was stolen in the past month from the Temple Baptist Church in Jonesboro, where RGB Mechanical of Jonesboro was working, said Greg Rollins, an electrician with the company.

Each time, thieves got to it before it was installed, taking it by the roll, he said.

T.L. Construction, also in Jonesboro, has been hit more than once. Sick of losing money, owner Tommy Louvern said he plans to install security systems at his construction sites, hoping a siren will scare off criminals.

Through mid-June, about 1,000 copper thefts had been reported in Little Rock. The Little Rock police started tracking copper thefts this year. But despite the high number, only 12 people had been arrested as of June 22.

Police say the thieves go virtually undetected posing as maintenance or construction workers at buildings sites, some salvage yards don’t cooperate with police, and victims don’t always report the crime. Hastings said many of the thieves are drug addicts.

In Fayetteville, Sgt. Tim Franklin estimated that copper thefts are double what they were last year.

Scrap copper prices soared to a record high this summer, peaking around $4 per pound in May, more than double the price of copper last year. Thieves can find the world’s third most widely used metal almost everywhere, from electrical wiring to air conditioning units.

Some law enforcement officials say they hope to put salvage yards on an electronic system that transmits sales information directly to police, making theft investigations easier.

Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette,

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