Millions of dollars are being stolen across the Mid-South in the form of copper thefts.
It’s affecting families, small businesses and large corporations.
Crittenden County was hit hard this past week. Multiple people took out two telephone poles to get two yards of copper wire worth $25,000 in one night.
“It's a huge problem,” said Chief Todd Grooms with Crittenden County Sheriff’s Office. “It's jumped up probably in the last couple of months.”
The thieves consistently take small things, but this week there was more targeted effort.
The two cell towers hit belonged to Verizon and AT&T, Grooms said.
It matters because not only do prices increase, but service is impacted in a major way.
“We went for a long time yesterday in certain areas where you couldn't dial out,” said Grooms.
People would not have been able to call 911, a potentially life-or-death situation.
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Criminals are even hitting A/C units, garages, and farm equipment.
It’s impacting all areas of the Mid-South – from Arkansas to Mississippi and Tennessee.
“I know Memphis was getting hit pretty good with it. They even have a division solely for scrap metal,” said Grooms. “It is that serious of a problem.”
In the past two months, criminals have taken more than more than $35,000 in copper wire from two construction sites in Downtown and Midtown.
The crime is difficult to solve because thieves quickly take their wire to pawn shops and scrap yards.
They do not have to prove how they got the metal.
“People over in Memphis will steal a bunch of wire and then bring it over to Crittenden County to sell it,” said Grooms.
Police are working to find out where thieves are taking the stolen wire, so they can stop them before they prey on more innocent, hardworking individuals.
One advantage for police: a system is set up with pawnshops and scrap-yards, so that they post the transactions online with photographs and the seller’s driver’s license.
Last year, police found one man scrapping more than $100,000 per month. He made roughly one million per year.
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