Thieves are becoming more creative these days, it seems. According to Lt. Bryan Taylor with the Lubbock County Sheriff's Department, new home constructions and county farms are becoming victim to copper wire theft, which has increased more than 300% in the last year alone.
"Electrical contractors will go in and wire a house or plumbing and the next day they'll go back to the site and all of their wiring has been stripped out," said Lt. Taylor.
Taylor notes that copper wire thieves tend to hit farms "at the end of their growing season because the missing wire will go undetected until the next growing season."
He says most thieves will watch a specific location for up to three days, usually working if teams of 2 or 3 before stealing the copper wire. Once they get a hold of it they will cut it up and burn it if the wire in incased in insulation. He says they do this to get more money. After it is burned, they try to sell it in parts, at different locations in Texas and New Mexico.
Geanna Tubbs is the Controller and In-House Council for Jarvis Metals and Recycling and she says Jarvis works very closely with the Lubbock County Sheriff's Office and LPD to try and catch copper wire thieves.
Tubbs says copper theft became more prominent about 4 or 5 years ago, when worldwide copper inflation caused the market price to skyrocket and thieves have figured out how use this to their advantage. She says the goal of every copper wire thief is simple:
"They think, ‘Hey I can make some quick cash, it's hard for them to catch me because it's not totally identifiable and even if you identify it as stolen, it's hard to trace back to the actual theft.'"
Because thieves burn stolen wires, Tubbs says Jarvis has a policy that they wont accept copper communication wire if it's burned. But, she says, it's not always that easy to spot stolen wire.
"Usually if you're experienced you can tell whether or not the wire is new or used," she said. "But a lot of times, what thieves will do is steal the wire and make it look used and it's very difficult to tell.
Tubbs added that she fears copper wire thieves will sell to metal recycle companies that don't follow the rules and it will perpetuate the cycle of getting rewarded for stealing. However, she hopes with the Lubbock County Sheriff's office help the can reduce the amount of copper theft in the county.
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