Unsolved copper thefts stacking up in several parishes

Copper Theft
Copper thefts are numerous throughout parishes in southwest Louisiana, and many of them go unsolved.
"Copper theft has been a problem for us here in Calcasieu parish like it has in many areas throughout the nation," said Lieutenant Robbie Broussard with the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office. "It's an ongoing problem for a lot of jurisdictions." 

The numbers are high. In the past six months in Allen Parish, thieves hit 12 high line wires and eight cell phone towers. Two similar cases totaled over $22, 000.

"Up until recently, most of it wasn't tracked," said Allen Parish Sheriff Doug Hebert III. "You could bring most of the copper to a recycling place and walk away with cash."

Jeff Davis Parish Sheriff Ivy Woods reports over 300 cases of copper theft in the past three years, and it's the same in Calcasieu. The sheriff's office reports 153 cases in the past year and a half.

"Copper theft cases present a big problem for law enforcement, primarily because there's no way of knowing where the copper came from," said Broussard.

Broussard says most of the cases in Calcasieu are solved by catching thieves in the act, but solving these crimes isn't easy.

"Cracking down on it is difficult, because of the complexity of the investigations," said Broussard. "Besides just doing enhanced patrols in areas that we know are getting hit by copper thieves, areas that they like to target, there's not a lot that can be done for it."

A new law make it easier for agencies to catch copper thieves. The law requires second hand shops, like scrap metal yards, to take information from each individual and supply that list to law enforcement.

"I do think it's going to make a difference," said Hebert. "Will it still go on? absolutely. It's like anything else. If somebody's willing to break the law, they'll break the law."

"It's a tremendous boost to our law enforcement efforts, now it gives us another tool to be able to track individuals who are scrapping copper," said Broussard. "In the past we had no way of knowing if one individual was going every week to scrap copper. That's not a normal activity for a person. Now we have a way of tracking them and seeing, this one person is scrapping copper wire every day or every week. That's someone we need to keep an eye on, and it may be someone we make a person of interest in our investigations."

Broussard says to help find thieves traveling to Texas to sell copper, CPSO subscribes to "Leads Online," a place for scrap metal yards outside of Louisiana to list the individuals selling copper.

Copyright 2012 KPLC. All rights reserved.