Scrapping breeds new kind of criminal activity

The theft of scrap metal has become a fast growing crime in Sweetwater according to Sweetwater Chief of Police Jim Kelley. Metals such as brass, copper, aluminum, nickel and stainless steel are being sought after by thieves looking to make money by selling it to recyclers. Items that are stolen have included gutters, window units, fence posts, gate doors, old appliances and junk cars. "These crooks are ripping people off left and right, taking anything metal that they can," stated Kelley. "They are driving the streets, looking for metal in yards, even going into people's fences and storage sheds to get the metal. They are even using bolt cutters to take things that are bolted down," he said.Kelley stated that scrapping is a booming business, and "thieves" are working very hard to make money off of other people's belongings. "We've had reports of these criminals posing as city employees clearing yards. We have even heard of some posing as detail personnel that end up using residents' cars to spend the day hauling metal to the recycling facilities."Kelley warns residents to be wary of these criminals in local neighborhoods. "If you see an unfamiliar car in the alley or cars passing by slowly, scoping out properties, call us here at the police department and someone will come out to investigate the situation. Also, be careful what you put in storage sheds and rented storage facilities. Don't store valuables or firearms, just keep them in the house. Once your property is scrapped it is gone for good, this is unrecoverable property."Kelley reminds residents that city employees have identifiers on their shirts. "If you are not sure, ask for identification."Kelley also warns about those wanting to detail cars. "We have good detail shops in town. Do not let a stranger that comes to your door take you car. These crooks may also be seasoned criminals and sex offenders coming to your door. Do not put yourself in a bind, call the police department and we will handle it for you."According to a local scrap metal recycling business, prices for scrap metal are currently higher than usual with brass at $1.50 per pound, copper at $2.50 a pound, aluminum at $0.40 a pound, cans at $0.61 a pound, iron at $220 per ton, long iron at $180 per ton and junk cars at $140 each. Prices are expected to decrease."These thieves and dopers are willing to work very hard in the 100 plus weather, stealing the property of others instead of getting a real job like most people," stated Kelley. "Be watchful of these criminals."