Copper Thieves Strike Again At Former Hospital

Police say, it likely took copper thieves not hours, but days to rip apart a vacant Tyler hospital.  Community Hospital has been closed for more than a decade.  Along Glenwood near Gentry in Tyler, renovations were soon to be underway.

Now nearly every room needs repair.   From room to room, pipes are ripped from the walls, and wiring from the ceiling -- even power conduits and steam pipes.

Owner Tom Mills says this was an operation, one well planned.

"There was obviously more than one person in here -- two or three, three or four, and some tools and they spent a considerable amount of time up on the second floor where there was more [sun]light."

Mills think the thieves worked on the copper fixtures for more than one day.  This is a high traffic area, the thieves were so brazen because the cost of copper is so high today.  It can be sold easily, at least right now.

But three bills filed in Austin would make it much harder to sell stolen copper in Texas.

Just like at a pawn shop, there would be a written record of every copper sale -- who bought it, and what they were driving.   Every seller would have to prove they own the copper they're trying to unload.

And the theft of copper wire of any amount would now be a felony.

"Normally we've seen small air conditioners off buildings and commercial buildings, but here, they felt that they had time to do it," says Tyler Police spokesman Officer Don Martin.

For business owners like Tom Mills, copper theft is no small thing. The repairs to his building are likely to hit six figures.

"It is like your home, your personal property and when someone comes and invades your personal property, you are upset," he says.

Morgan Palmer, Reporting