Crooks Finding New Ways To Cope With Struggling Economy

By: Cayle Thompson Email
By: Cayle Thompson Email

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Business may not be its best at Kamen Recycling in North Wichita, but it's steady. And in this economy, that's a very good thing.

"There are times we've made more money and times we've made less," says company owner Sheldon Kamen. "We've been through a number of depressions."

This is definitely one of those depressions, Kamen says. But his outlook is positive.

"We're doing okay," says Kamen.

Wichita police say the current economy is affecting some crimes in the community.

"I think we're dealing with pause in metal thefts," says WPD Captain Darrell Haynes.

Haynes says with popular metals - like aluminum and copper - trading well below prices just one year ago, fewer criminals are interested in the time and effort needed to steal it.

Instead, other larcenies appear to be on the rise -- up 3% in 2008 alone.

"Right now we're seeing a lot of identity thefts," says Haynes. "Stealing from cars; stealing from mailboxes." He says common sense is a good way to protect yourself.

Police say never leave any items of value in your car. Haynes says many crooks are more interested in your ID, checkbook and credit cards than a radio or GPS.

And with tax season upon us, Haynes says it's best to have your refund deposited directly into a bank account. Having it sent to your mailbox makes you an easy target for thieves, some of whom are known to trail postal workers.

If you are mailing items out that contain personal information, Haynes says it's best to use a drop-box at the post office. Putting it in your mailbox and raising a flag is a giveaway to thieves.

Property crimes are driven in large part by drugs. The street prices for cocaine and meth have been one of the few constants in the struggling economy, Haynes says.

Last winter, police were asking for the public's help solving several large metal thefts. Tens of thousands of dollars in damage was done to light-poles in a West Wichita baseball park. Several schools were also hit.

Haynes says it's hard to put a finger on the exact number of crimes under the umbrella of larceny, and he says it's hard to prove the economy is causing other crimes to go up.

But he says overall reports of metal thefts have dropped along with the market value of the most popular metals, some of which are down 50% or more.

Kamen had a security system installed years ago to protect against thieves. He says he's had very few problems since.

But he and police say as the economy -- and metal prices -- rebound, don't be surprised if the thefts start again.

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