Hot Wired, Part 1, Copper, Union, Morehouse, Recycle yards - KNOE 8 News; KNOE-TV; KNOE.com |

Hot Wired Part 1

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UNION PARISH, La. (KNOE 8 News) - When you think of copper, pennies is probably the word that comes to mind. But copper in the recycling market brings much more than pennies to those selling and buying it, legally and illegally.

Though it may seem like a tedious process to most of us, copper theft is becoming a daily problem in the ARKLAMISS.

Three bucks a pound may not sound like much, but on the scale scrap copper could add up to 130 bucks. Union Parish Sheriff, Bob Buckley, says "it doesn't take a lot of copper to amount up to a lot of money at the price it's at today."

Morehouse Parish Sheriff, Mike Tubbs, says "just as soon as these metal prices began to increase and you saw overnight all of these second hand metal dealers springing up. You know every parish has several. It lets you know there is a great deal of money in it."

Thieves see copper as quick cash and that means thefts are on the rise. Thieves leave home and business owners with thousands in damage, and a bigger problem for law enforcement.

Sheriff Tubbs says, "it has certainly posed numerous challenges to law enforcement throughout the country."

One of the major challenges for law enforcement, how to track down stolen metal? Sheriff Tubs says, "copper is copper. We don't know if it came from your house, my house, or where it came from."

Copper wire, copper water pipes, air conditioning units, downspouts, anything made of copper is a target. Any place unattended can become a target, like a vacation camp in Union Parish.

There thieves targeted where power entered the home cutting wires, even leaving some copper behind. Sheriff Buckley says, "it costs the people untold amounts of money just in the damage, not counting the copper."

Thieves didn't stop with the home, they ripped wires out of an electrical panel. Sheriff Buckley says he's seen much worse. He says, "they actually took all the metal off on the outside of the trailer. All the wiring and piping inside while the people were actually at work."

Others target homes for sale or abandoned. Sheriff Tubbs says, "we're being flooded with calls. Someone goes in all the copper is gone, cast iron bathtubs are gone, any form of metal or these precious metals."

Owner of Lusby Heating and Cooling, Calbin Lusby, says air conditioners are a big target. He says, "a $2,500 piece of equipment and getting 50 or 60 dollars out of it? It just doesn't make sense."

Thieves will take parts worth some value out of air conditioners, and leave the rest behind. An air conditioner behind a business had the wires cut from the building to the unit. Lusby says now some businesses are taking an extra step of precaution. He says, "once we set the condenser, they come back and install a cage around their air conditioner."

Once thieves get the goods they try to sell it to recycle yards. Sheriff Tubbs says, "of the ones I have legitimately operating here, the investigators are up there several times a week. They're just looking for things, looking for stolen property."

Law requires recycle businesses to ask sellers for a picture ID, and no cash is given at the time of sale. A check is sent five days later to the address on the seller's license. Police say that makes stolen copper easier to trace.

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