Copper theft on the rise

The Stephen's County Sheriff's Office says they have had more copper thefts reported.  Since 7News reported on this crime last week, copper theft has been reported in a few other places in the county.  Copper wire was stolen both from Velma Field and from private property this week where two spools of ground wire worth around $2,400 were taken.

Local law enforcement says copper theft is on the rise because the price for copper is through the roof.  People, including accused James Dale Brown, are risking their lives to strip copper from electrical substations.  And now, authorities say they have reports from residents missing precious metals from their private property.

Brass, copper and aluminum are hot metals that come in and out of scrap yards on a daily basis.  Tommy Lovett has been in the scrap business for 22 years and says they do their best to keep track of every customer who comes in with metal - especially copper.  "The best way is to keep good records, photo ids, driver's licenses, tag, vehicle descriptions.  Keep in good contact with authorities and we do are best to accommodate them," says Lovett.

Scrap yard employees say state law has changed, so when people bring these metals in, they are also required to bring a driver's license.  Law enforcement says having scrap yards keep better records alone doesn't solve the problem.  Most of the time, authorities say, it's a crime of opportunity and people need to be more aware of what's happening on their property.

Lovett says he agrees and the price per pound can add up quickly.  Copper is priced $2 to $3 per pound, Brass - $1 to $1.50 and aluminum around $.50 per pound.  He says a big red flag for potentially stolen metal is when it's someone they've never seen before and that person is bringing in a substantial amount - 40 pounds or more.