Local: Thieves targeting copper

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— The Routt County Sheriff's Office is warning construction workers and building suppliers to secure their copper.

From Tuesday through Friday night, there were four cases of copper wire thefts from construction sites near Catamount subdivision, Sgt. Ray Birch said Monday.

It is an unusual crime, Birch said, but copper theft has become common across the United States because the price for the commodity has skyrocketed. Thieves are stealing copper and selling it to salvage yards for around $4 a pound.

"We have a limited number of salvage yards up here, but if you go the Front Range there are a lot of places that buy copper," Birch said.

About 1,400 feet of copper wire of varying length and diameter valued at $1,700 was taken from the Catamount area construction sites. Some power tools were also taken.

The copper thefts in other parts of the country include more than just wire. In Denver, some city-owned parkways and medians dried out after copper thieves nabbed irrigation fittings and valves, the Rocky Mountain News reported. It has cost the city thousands of dollars. Copper air conditioning coils were targeted at a Lexington, Ky., church. Copper gutters and downspouts were stolen in Portland, Ore., the newspaper reported.

Birch said he is concerned that the thieves might become more daring in Routt County and might start targeting suppliers.

"I could see them cutting through a fence and going after these spools," Birch said.

He said the Dheriff's Office does not have any leads yet, and the characteristics of the crimes were inconsistent. They are building a suspect and crime profile off the four Catamount thefts.

"You want to be on the lookout for any suspicious activity," Birch said.

Anyone with information can call the Sheriff's Office at 870-5519. Routt County dispatch can be reached at 879-1090.

To reach Matt Stensland call 871-4210 or e-mail mstensland@steamboatpilot.com.

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