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Thefts of copper, brass and other metals hit Inland Empire freeways

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#1
Thieves disguise themselves as Caltrans workers. CHP asks the public for help.
By David Kelly
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

April 30, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, CALIF. — The rampant theft of copper and other metals in Southern California has begun hitting Inland Empire freeways hard, leaving motorists in increasing danger as traffic signals and lights in underpasses and rest areas have gone dark, law enforcement and Caltrans officials said Tuesday.

Thieves also have swiped guardrails and irrigation systems along roadways.

"We had $15,000 in copper tools and wire stolen from our Victorville maintenance yard on Sunday," said Terri Kasinga, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Transportation.

"When you get a missing guardrail and lights and signals that don't work, that's hazardous.

"We can't get out there in five minutes and fix it," she said at a news conference called to highlight the growing problem in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Caltrans is asking the public to report suspicious behavior. Officials say they want stiffer fines and prison sentences for offenders and closer scrutiny of recyclers.

Metal thieves are wearing reflective vests and hard hats so they look more like Caltrans workers, said Joe Ramos, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol.

"They don't have the magnetic decal on their car, which is one way to tell they are not Caltrans workers," he said.

Ramos said most thieves work alone and are supporting drug habits, but some are operating in groups.

The Inland Empire has been especially hard hit because of its size, rural geography and high levels of poverty.

Last week, a house in Hesperia burned down after firefighters found critical copper parts had been stolen from every hydrant on the block. Some 13,800 people lost power last year when thieves hit a Hesperia electrical substation.

Copper is preferred by criminals because it can fetch more than $3 a pound at a recycling center. But other metals also have become fair game.

The aluminum bleachers at the Kessler Park Little League field in Bloomington were stolen last summer. Bronze plaques were taken from the facade of the San Bernardino County Museum in Redlands. The pool at the Boys & Girls Club of San Bernardino was temporarily closed because all its metal fixtures had been stolen.

Catalytic converters on cars are increasingly targeted for their platinum.

"This has become a serious threat to public safety," said San Bernardino County Supervisor Josie Gonzalez.

"Part of it is because of the economic downturn, but it's also because in the last three years, copper has gone from 70 cents a pound to $3.30 a pound.

"Now," she said, "vacant houses are a big target. We caught five copper wire thieves who were stealing so much that they were making a good living."

Thieves are taking the brass heads off irrigation systems along the roads.

"We replaced 12 sprinkler heads at Riverside Avenue yesterday and by noon today they were all gone," Kasinga said. After that, "we replaced them with plastic. I think that might be the way we go."

California legislators have sponsored bills to crack down on metal theft, including efforts to require recyclers to closely monitor what they take in.

Billboards with messages like "Pull the Line, Do the Time" dot the 10 Freeway, warning copper thieves that they are being watched.

Caltrans officials said more surveillance cameras will be installed but noted that losses would inevitably be borne by taxpayers.

The price tag in the Inland Empire just for the last six months is estimated at almost $300,000, Kasinga said.

"We really need to make this an issue, and it has to start with the recyclers," she said.

"We really need to police them."

Anyone who sees metal theft occurring along the roadways is asked to call 911 or the CHP at (800) 835-5247.
 
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#2
Looks like the crooks have stripped the cities of available copper, and are spreading out looking for more ways to become Darwin Award Candidates.
 

Zaratsu

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There were three articles in the a.m. paper regarding this crime statewide.


People are stealing cat converters for the platinum (police and reporters have not figured this out yet) If you drive a lifted truck, watch out, these make it easy to hacksaw one off.

Pool equipment for pumps (copper windings) and the aluminum

Next it will be manhole covers. I kid you not.
 
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#4
this is crazy, nationwide. Here in detroit they're taking everything.... even aluminum siding on homes. imagine that, wake up and your whole house is stripped.

Crazy one here, a couple months ago a man climbed one of the freeway cams and started stripping the pole. However, michigan state police operate these cams, and they pointed the cam right at him and got a great description of the suspect. I believe a trooper was dispatched out there and they got him.
 

Zaratsu

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Jimmy252 said:
this is crazy, nationwide. Here in detroit they're taking everything.... even aluminum siding on homes. imagine that, wake up and your whole house is stripped.

Crazy one here, a couple months ago a man climbed one of the freeway cams and started stripping the pole. However, michigan state police operate these cams, and they pointed the cam right at him and got a great description of the suspect. I believe a trooper was dispatched out there and they got him.

You should get some burgular bars, but those would get stolen too.:lol:

whats going on here? when did we turn into a 3rd world country?:(
 

N467RX

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#7
DanTSX said:
There were three articles in the a.m. paper regarding this crime statewide.


People are stealing cat converters for the platinum (police and reporters have not figured this out yet) If you drive a lifted truck, watch out, these make it easy to hacksaw one off.

Pool equipment for pumps (copper windings) and the aluminum

Next it will be manhole covers. I kid you not.
That is already happening down in Panama.
 
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#9
We've been

DanTSX said:
You should get some burgular bars, but those would get stolen too.:lol:
whats going on here? when did we turn into a 3rd world country?:(
We've been a Third Would Country ever since the very first generation of welfare recipients got their first check.

We're up to about ten generations of them now.

We give them food stamps, they sell them to but drugs & alcohol. We give them living quarters and they strip & sell the wire & plumbing for dope & alcohol and then COMPLAIN about the deplorable public housing they're FORCED to live in....

Remember, keep working. There are THOUSANDS out there on welfare depending on YOU to pay your taxes so they can stay in our subsidized gov't housing won't have to go to work!

Sad part of the stealing of everything is, that is HARDER WORK than if they would just get a damn job!!!!

Steve/KB8FAR :confused:
 

Thayne

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Someone stole the STEEL window well covers at a church, now the Church is getting sued because some kid fell in and cracked his head open--What a crock :twisted:
 
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#12
Manhole covers are soooo last century.
;^>

One reason municipalities have their logos included in the design of their manhole covers is to preclude theft, since few scrap metal companies will buy the easily identifiable stolen property.
 

iMONITOR

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The people they need to go after is the scrap yards that are willing to buy all this stolen property. The guys stealing it would stop tomorrow if no one was willing to buy it from them. Often it's painfully obvious the scrap is stolen too!
 
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#16
There is action in Houston, TX, where the city passed an ordinance to at least keep track of the sellers. But, action in the Legislature is needed to stop the metal thefts. But, since they meet every 2 years for 140 days, or so, we'll see if anything happens.

BTW, someone did quip that there was an error when the state constitution was written. It should have read 2 days every 140 years.
;^>
 
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#18
GreatLakes said:
The people they need to go after is the scrap yards that are willing to buy all this stolen property. The guys stealing it would stop tomorrow if no one was willing to buy it from them. Often it's painfully obvious the scrap is stolen too!
Exactly. Bells should be going off when someone brings in 100 lbs of shiny, new(ish) copper that's in 20+ foot lengths. When I did HVAC work, I'd collect the scrap stuff from where we cut off pieces installing units, but it probably took me two weeks to fill a 5 gallon bucket. My point is, if someone is coming about scrap metal legitimately, it is going to take someone not collecting it as part of their job a while to accumulate enough to make it worth their while. About all it did for me 10-11 years ago was paid for lunch for a week. Whoopee!

Since most businesses ordinarily prohibit their employees from taking home any scrap materials from old equipment, demolitions, etc., if I bought scrap, I'd be awfully suspicious of any individual walking in off the street with a couple hundred pounds of copper or aluminum wiring, siding, tubing, etc. Of course most of the yards that buy the stuff from these guys are probably holding back 20-25% of what everyone else pays as a kickback for looking the other way.

Ditto with catalytic converter theft. If someone isn't a mechanic or junkyard operator, someone walking in the door with a dozen or more converters would probably lead me to sneak back into the office to call the cops to at least converse with these characters.
 

SCPD

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#19
zz0468 said:
It was a process that took about 20 years. It is now complete.
I am waiting for some one to BLAME BUSH......come on any Takers? You know you want to RING that bell!!!!
 

iMONITOR

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GADGETPRONE said:
I am waiting for some one to BLAME BUSH......come on any Takers? You know you want to RING that bell!!!!
Why is it when some people do not have anything intelligent to say in a thread, they deliberately try to start crap and ruin it? Are you that bored? :roll:
 
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