Wichita police: Copper theft crimes still rising

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WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

Surveillance footage from a Goddard business shows the moments one man did thousands of dollars worth of damage. 

In a facebook post, Central Kansas Plumbing says a thief showed up not once, but twice last weekend, cutting copper, damaging piping from several walls and stealing their video camera. Police say this is an all too common occurrence for small businesses.

"They're getting hit with large, large sums," says WPD Sergeant Trevor McDonald.

Sergeant McDonald says so far this year, there have been 166 theft cases involving copper, scrap metal or catalytic converters. While the numbers aren't higher than last year, McDonald says there's been a spike in copper thefts recently.

"The light poles. The wire that goes underground between the light poles. They'll come clip those during the day when the poles aren't energized and then at night, they come in and they can pull those wires," he says.

He says a lot of these crimes are committed in broad daylight, but catching the criminals isn't as easy as it might sound. Right now, police have no good way of tracking any copper or scrap metal being sold in the city. Soon, a new database that would force shops to report all sales could help solve the crimes. 

"It's a force multiplier for us. We've got only x amount of detectives and x amount of officers out there, so they cannot go from pawn shop to pawn shop.

Until then, McDonald says everyone can help police simply by looking around when they're out and about.

"We, police officers, there's just so many of us on so many corners, but how many cell phones are out there? How many people can call 911 and how many people can say hey, I see somebody suspicious at a light pole, they don't have a hard hat and a uniform on standing beside a truck, they need to be checked out," he says.

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