Thursday, September 16, 2010

Copper thieves gettin' paid, wreaking $500,000 worth of damage -- Phoenix, AZ

A network of thieves was behind a massive copper theft at a Phoenix office building, said police.

Air conditioning units were dismantled, electrical wire was yanked out of conduits, and piping was cut throughout the building near Thomas Road and 29th Avenue, according to property managers.

Damage is estimated at $500,000, according to the building’s leasing agent.

"It's sickening,” said property manager Genna Goldberg. “I just can't believe they're so aggressive and have so much nerve."

Managers said the thieves used spray paint on the glass doors to shield the looting that was going on inside the building. They also said the crooks had a lookout post at the front of the building.

“They have a bench positioned by the blinds where you can see that they had the blinds drawn down so they could have a vantage point of anyone coming on the property," Goldberg said.

Investigators said the thieves were likely at work for days -- having a field day in the vacant office building before the crime was discovered.

Off-duty police officers were hired to keep watch of the building, and over the weekend, police found several men stealing copper.

Police said the men took off running, but they arrested one of them. Charles England, 43, was taken into custody on Saturday. Police said they are searching for the others.

Phoenix police said the price of copper has more than doubled in the past year, and they have seen a spike in thefts of catalytic converters and backflow inhibitors recently.

Police also said it’s now illegal for scrapyards to purchase copper from catalytic converters and backflow inhibitors, and officers are conducting inspections to ensure businesses follow the rules.

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