JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The Craighead County Sheriff's Department is investigating a copper theft incident.
According to the department's report, police received a complaint from Craighead Electric that someone cut copper from several electric lines near Monette over the past few days.
A deputy was surveying that area early Friday morning when he noticed someone shining a flashlight on the wires. The officer contacted the two suspects, who then drove away.
The officer chased the vehicle to Dunklin County and arrested one person. The other ran toward the St. Francis River and is still missing.
"Copper theft's become a very common crime and a very expensive crime," Craighead County Sheriff Marty Boyd said.
Boyd said more and more criminals are becoming aware of this and trying to sell stolen copper to local recycling companies. But these businesses are on to them.
"Every copper sale, we do take a photo ID," said Jeff Smith, manager of WW Recycling in Kennett.
Smith and his employees at WW Recycling make a copy of every customer's photo ID and require their signature for each transaction.
"That signature means that they're responsible for this material sold," Smith said.
Smith said he can typically tell if someone stole the materials they're trying to sell.
"If it's a large, large amount or something like that," Smith said.
"Wire that's been cut and burned," Boyd said. "Things like that where you know it's a specific wire used for certain things."
WW Recycling and other local recycling companies work with police to find these copper thieves.
"We have all the records to show who brought it in and they signed for it," Smith said.
"They report everything they buy and who sells that copper to them on a program called LeadsOnline where we can look at what they're taking in, identify who's selling the copper," Boyd said. "We've made several arrests on that."
Even with this technology, Sheriff Boyd said the biggest problem with finding copper criminals is location.
"We're so close to Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi that it's not just Arkansas seeing this brought in," Boyd said. "It's going to several different states."
Sheriff Boyd said this widespread crime effects the entire community.
"Craighead Electric, when they have a loss that's substantial, everyone is gonna pay that cost in utility fees," Boyd said.
Sheriff Boyd said this is an ongoing investigation and expects the department to make even more arrests from other cases Craighead Electric reported.
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