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Tucson police target metal thieves

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Tucson police target metal thieves

  • Spools of copper wiring are attractive to metal thieves because they can fetch money as commodity prices rise.
    TaranRampersad/FlickrSpools of copper wiring are attractive to metal thieves because they can fetch money as commodity prices rise.

The Tucson Police Department has announced some success in a recently implemented plan to combat the increase in metal thefts around the city.

Copper wiring, back flow water valves, air conditioning units and other recyclable items have been the target of thieves, who sell the metal as commodity prices rise, said TPD spokeswoman Sgt. Maria Hawke.

The "Metal Theft Reduction Apprehension Plan" aims to reduce the amount of those thefts through the sharing of information and and communication between residents and police officers and through education about the crimes, Hawke said.

Implemented two months ago, the program is credited with "several felony arrests" for metal theft, Hawke said in a news release.

City Councilman Steve Kozachik said the city is working with scrap metal dealers and recyclers to stop buying stolen metal.

Law requires mandatory participation of licensed recyclers to log information and photograph items brought in for sale and the seller, which are added to an online database accessible to law enforcement, Kozachik said.

According to Kozachick, TPD reported 216 metal thefts that have totaled more than $600,000 since January.

City facilities also have been targeted by thieves, he said.

The Department of Transportation has lost more than $500,000, and Tucson Water customers have reported the thefts of back-flow assemblies, which can run between $1,000 and  $3,000 to replace, Kozachik said.

Police, members of the business community and the Pima County Attorney's Office have been working together in the latest approach to battle the thefts, and have extended the program to include other agencies and citizen groups, Hawke said.

To report metal thefts, call 911.

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