Copper Thefts On The Rise - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/14/06-Winona

Copper Thefts On The Rise

Copper thefts are on the rise nationwide. That's because the price for copper has increased to almost 3 dollars per pound here in East Texas. Last week we told you about vandals ripping apart the heating unit at the Salvation Army for the copper piping. The latest theft of copper is at a railroad switching station near Winona.  

"These run numbers match the number I got off the suspect. This is exclusively used by Union Pacific Railroad," says Constable John Smith.

Along with DPS and Smith County Sheriff's deputies arrested one man they believe is responsible for stealing 500 feet of copper from the railroad. This man, 36 year old Joe Larry McElhaney was arrested on Monday.  Constable Smith recovered this tubing as well as methamphetamine from McElhaney's house.

"It goes hand in hand with methamphetamine. It's how they feed their habit," Constable Smith.

At the scrap yards, copper is selling anywhere from $2.50 to $3.00 per pound.  

"It's price and demand. Supplies are low and the price goes up and if they are building home and a lot of cars where copper is used then the copper price goes up," says Tom Curtis, Manager at Tyler Iron and Metal.

Curtis says they keep the necessary paper work when they buy large amounts of copper.

"Anybody who sells 50 pounds of copper or 40 pounds of aluminum has to present us with a personal ID issued by the department of public safety. We turn we make a copy of that and list that type of information.  Then we send a copy of this form to the Texas Department of Public Safety every 7 days," says Curtis.

But Constable Smith is hoping the law will change.  

"I would like to see it be 20 pounds and up. Because they can take a little bit here and a little bit there and there is no record keeping," says Constable Smith.

Until the law is changed, Curtis says there is nothing else they can do.

Constable Smith says if a scrap yards knowingly buys stolen property the business could face a class C misdemeanor.

Karolyn Davis, reporting.  kdavis@kltv.com

  

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