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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 26, 2006

Copper, brass thefts getting more brazen

 •  HPD seeks help in catching bank suspect

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

The theft of copper continues to escalate on O'ahu, and no one seems to be immune.

In the past two months, thieves have stolen copper wire, tubing and other items from schools, government facilities, highway lights, churches and construction sites. Recently, someone stole brass vases from graves at the Mo'ili'ili Cemetery and 15,000 feet of copper wire from the Wai'anae Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Navy investigators are probing the theft of four pallets of copper cables valued at $150,000. The theft report from the Pearl Harbor Naval Base was dated April 20.

Police suspect many of the stolen goods are being recycled for cash, and they have asked recycling companies and residents to be on the lookout for suspicious activity. Police also believe that some of the new wiring and tubing is being sold to businesses.

Yesterday, Honolulu police delivered a letter to recycling companies to ask them to be on the lookout for items, such as copper wire, rain gutters and down spouts, that may have been stolen. Police are asking that companies jot down information about the people who are attempting to sell copper or brass.

"We are sending a letter out to recycling companies and just asking them to be aware, take down some information if people are coming in with large amounts that they shouldn't have," said Sgt. Kim Capllonch, coordinator of the CrimeStoppers program. "If they're a normal person walking up the street with a lot of copper, then something's up."

Chan Pak, supervisor at C M Recycling, said police dropped off the letter at his Sand Island plant yesterday. He said he deals primarily with roofing and electrical companies that he's familiar with.

"We don't buy the stolen stuff. We can tell what's been stolen. We just send them back," Pak said. "If they're selling for the scrap, we ask for their ID and license plate (number). I've been doing this for a long time."

Depending on the grade of the copper, Pak says his company pays $2.30 to $3 per pound.

In the past two months, Capllonch said, there have been 15 reports of copper or brass thefts. So far, just one person has been arrested and Capllonch asked the public to be alert to suspicious activities.

"It's spread out all over the island, so it's not one area that's getting hit the most," she said.

In the Wai'anae incident, the copper wire was stored on pallets that weighed 500 pounds each and Capllonch said the thieves had to have had heavy equipment to remove the wire.

"They're not carrying it by hand," she said.

Anyone with information on copper or brass thefts is asked to call CrimeStoppers at 955-8300.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach Curtis Lum at culum@honoluluadvertiser.com.