A community forum to discuss metal theft was held Thursday night at Pecos Community Center. The theft of non-ferrous metals, those not attracted to magnets, has risen dramatically since 2003, officials said. And the cost to businesses and communities can be heavy. “Metal theft has become a big problem throughout the community, throughout the nation, actually internationally,” Sgt. Theresa Clark of the Phoenix Police Department’s Metal Theft Unit said. Clark described the “ABCs” of metal theft: aluminum, brass and copper. Copper, she said, has the highest theft rate. Thieves are stealing copper fittings, wires, catalytic converters from vehicles and water meters off of fire hydrants to sell at scrap yards. Prices for copper have jumped from 65 cents per pound in 2001 to nearly $4 in 2008. “We are all part of this,” Tony DiSanti of the American Metals Company said. “Don’t kid yourself, this isn’t going to end soon.” The most common sources of metal theft are new homes and industrial properties, Clark said. Carol Pacey of Levine said at the meeting that there had been 12 thefts of copper water valves from communities around her at 43rd Avenue and Baseline Road. Phoenix Det. Mark Potts of the Community Relations Bureau described the innovation of thieves, mentioning a homemade device that is placed on a roof and can pull all the wire out of a home with the push of a button. There are some laws in effect to help cut down on the sale of stolen metals, Clark said. Companies are required to check ID, take a photo and fingerprint of the seller, and record a license plate number for transactions over $25. But he said there needs to be a “joint cooperative effort for change” that includes businesses, the community and legislators. Potts discussed ways these groups can help decrease the crime problem, including using the SafeBiz Network. The SafeBiz Network is run through the police department and allows businesses to submit their contact information and details on what kind of business they are to be included in a secure database. Whenever there is a crime that happens in a certain area or to a certain type of business, related businesses are notified via fax of the crime. “If you’ve been vandalized, if you’ve been graffitied, if you’ve been robbed, if you’ve, again, been the victim of repeated burglaries or metal thefts, I address each one of those issues,” he said of the program.
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