Recent Central Florida Copper Theft Stings Nail Eight
In Manatee County, Florida, the Bradenton Herald reports:
- Targeting the "middleman" in a recent spree of copper thefts, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday arrested seven people on charges of buying stolen metal. The arrests at two scrap yards and two private homes - where detectives had received tips that illegal activity was taking place - culminated a six-week sting operation dubbed "Operation Hot Wire." [...] "This was an effort to go after the middleman, the people buying stolen copper," said Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube. "We told these people this stuff was stolen, and they took took it anyway."
- Two years ago, copper was being sold for about $1 per pound. On Wednesday, copper closed at $3.45 per pound in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The price increase has fueled a nationwide epidemic of copper theft from businesses and residences, according to sheriff's Sgt. John Andrews.
- Manatee County has been hit so hard, the sheriff's office this summer assigned two detectives solely to investigate copper thefts. Most recently, thefts of copper and brass backflow preventers have frustrated victims and investigators. A backflow preventer keeps wastewater from being sucked back into water supplies.
- In September, someone was brazen enough to steal the backflow preventer from the rear of the sheriff's office's headquarters, leaving employees without water for hours.
- Accounts from search warrants in the sheriff's office "Operation Hot Wire" have buyers showing detectives how to take brand new wire and make it look used by soaking it in acid.
In another recent Central Florida metal theft sting, The Lakeland Ledger reported:
- The selling of stolen metal - a growing problem in Polk County - landed the owner of a recycling company in jail ... . Jerome Hayes, 43, of St. Cloud, was arrested by Polk County Sheriff's Office undercover detectives after he purchased items from them that were made to look like stolen property, a press release from the office said. [...] In the last year, the Sheriff's Office has investigated hundreds of cases of stolen copper wire in unincorporated Polk County.
For more, see St. Cloud Man Arrested in Stolen Metal Sting.
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