Copper Stolen, Scrapyards On The Lookout

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A surveillance camera captured a white truck, believed to have been used in the theft of over 1.5 tons of specialty copper from Black Hills Energy.

Investigators say between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds of copper was taken from the utility’s Victoria Street facility.

The surveillance picture was taken on January 25, but officials say the theft was not discovered until January 27.

The pickup appears to be either a white or light-colored single-cab truck. It’s described as a half-ton pickup with regular cab and a short bed. It may also have a brush guard in the front and a custom black metal tailgate.

It was pulling a flatbed trailer with a lift ramp.

Padlocks were broken on the back lot of the facility. A picture of the car was captured as it was driving down D Street between Victoria and Lamkin.

Anyone with information about this theft is asked to call Pueblo Crime Stoppers at 542-STOP.

With the price of copper so high, selling for as much as $3.15 a pound, it’s likely the thieves will try to sell it for some quick cash.

But what many don’t realize is that scrapyards work with police to help catch these crooks.

The stolen copper used for high voltage could show up anytime at local scrap yards.

“I never want to buy anything stolen. Because when they come to recover it, we've usually paid for it, and we don't get restitution. Ninety percent of the time we don’t get restitution,” said Jennifer Dionisio. “And secondly, like you learned in kindergarten, don’t take anything that doesn’t belong to you.”

Scrapyards can play a vital role in helping police identify and catch copper thieves. That’s why place like Dionisio’s Metal and Iron Inc. in Pueblo work closely with investigators.

“If they have a suspect we can look up the customer by name, or we can go back through the materials we purchased and find the material because we have a digital copy of it,” said Dionisio. “It shows the weight, the time we bought it, the amount, and who brought it in.”

Data is stored for a year using a computer program called Scrap Dragon. The system captures the entire transaction.

“We have pictures when they come in on the scale, we have pictures of the material, we have pictures of the customer when they are receiving their payment,” said Dionisio.

But they also have to ask questions and be observant.

“If it's brand new copper that still has price tags on it, brand new shiny copper, anything like that can be a red flag. Sometimes people's behavior is a red flag as to what they might have. Large amounts of copper if it isn't from a business or plumbing company,” said Dionisio.

Now they are on the lookout for the vehicle involved in the Black Hills Energy theft, ready to help police if they come knocking on their door.

“If I can hand them a photograph of the material they are looking for, or hand them a picture of the person’s ID, or give them a name to the face they have, or a vehicle description. If they give me a description and I can say this vehicle belongs to so and so, they are here everyday," said Dionisio.

Dionisio says scrapyards are required by law to keep an inventory record of all the transactions so they are available to law enforcement. Each customer also has to present a state-issued ID that they keep on file, along with all the pictures of the vehicle and transaction.

11 News spoke with Black Hills Energy. They say that customer’s bills should not be affected by the theft. Here is the statement they released:

“Metal thefts from an electric utility are both costly and dangerous to those involved. This equipment is often either energized or in close proximity to energized equipment. The recent copper theft involved salvaged equipment that Black Hills Energy was saving for possible future use as repair parts. Replacing the stolen equipment will increase our cost of doing business, in the same way that shoplifting affects a retail merchant. Sadly, such thefts do ultimately affect the prices to the customer. Fortunately in this case, the relative value of the stolen equipment is small enough that it will have no measurable impact at an individual customer level.”

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