The Garner Police department is urging the public to be on the lookout for any suspicious activity of people stripping copper from homes.
There have been nine larceny reports involving copper this year, according to incident reports. Lt. Chris Clayton, Garner Police Department spokesman, said in the past year, there has been an average of five or six thefts a month.
Clayton said most of the copper thefts have happened in older residential neighborhoods including the Cloverdale subdivision and Forest Hills.
“Older homes have copper pipelines and the thieves are stripping them when no one is home or isn’t living there,” he said. “It’s an ongoing issue and we’re trying to catch them.
“They will sell it at scrap metal places. Copper is pretty high value, which is why new homes don’t use them anymore.”
To catch them, the department is working with scrap metal places like TT&E Iron and Metal.
Ronnie Thompson, co-owner of TT&E, a family-owned business in Garner, said copper thefts have been happening for years and is something scrap metal companies have been trying to prevent. He said he can remember calling the police as a teenager on suspected stolen copper from an individual that was cutting power from the railroad lines
In 2007 and 2008, the value of copper increased.
“When the commodity prices surged in 2007 and 2008, this problem grew enormously,” Thompson said. “We were calling 911 on a weekly basis. It seemed like sometimes it was every day.”
And some have tried to steal from them. Garner Police arrested three men that jumped over TT&E’s fence and were stealing copper at night. The company has had to install over 200 cameras within their 60-acre facility and have hired an off-duty officer to protect the facility.
Prices for copper have declined in the last few years Thompson said, so he hasn’t had as many people come in to try to sell it as he did six years ago.
“The public can do so much to deter thieves like cutting on more area motion lights, installing cameras, putting up fences, being observant and joining your neighbors crime watch,” Thompson said.