Homeowners, developers crack down on metal thieves

By Dan Wells - bio | email

COVINGTON, KY (FOX19) -- A new crackdown on local criminals stealing metal objects to sell for scrap.

There's been a rise in cast iron, sewer grate and copper thefts around the Tri-state. Just last week, prosecutors charged a Cleves man with stealing more than a hundred shopping carts. Thieves are also stealing catalytic converters-to get precious metals in Cincinnati. And several people have died trying to get copper wires from power lines.

Now, some Covington developers and home owners are fighting back against would-be thieves.

A home on 12th Street in Covington has been broken into 12 times. About a month ago, the owners said enough is enough by actually sending would-be thieves a message.

Thieves are cashing in on the rising price of precious metals.

A local restoration specialist and developer in Covington unfortunately knows the illegal game all to well.

"They would not only take the copper from the plumbing, they took it from the furnace or anywhere else they could get some metal," said Dale Shaw with River Metals.

Mike Martin, the owner of these properties, says thieves have broken into these buildings 12 times, so about a month ago, he tagged his own buildings.

"We have nine buildings and we've got signs on six of them," he said.

Mike says the "no copper signs" were a must, after criminals started breaking the law and his investment right in front of cops.

"Actually, one of the police officers on a Sunday said a guy right on that corner was stripping the wires he had stolen from this building, and he actually told the cop he got it from this building," Martin said.

River Metals says it's now tightened regulations for taking scrap.

A driver's license is now required from anyone trying to sell metal and in some cases scrap is held for a month to allow stolen items to be reclaimed.

"We do get calls for items all the time, and we cooperate with police on those," Shaw said.

So is the money worth it?

"Copper could be in the 3 to 4 dollar range, aluminum is up to 50 cents to a dollar range. Iron, steel, that used to be $100 a ton, now it can be near $400 to $500 a ton," said Shaw.

Covington police say so far this year they've already arrested 8 people for these types of thefts, and they imagine they will have dozens more as the summer continues.