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Thieves Steal Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dollars Worth Of Copper From Factories

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Copper thievery has been on the rise in one North Carolina town, where buildings are being targeted multiple times for tens of thousands of dollars in copper. (credit: Nick Ansell/PA Wire/Getty Images)

Copper thievery has been on the rise in one North Carolina town, where buildings are being targeted multiple times for tens of thousands of dollars in copper. (credit: Nick Ansell/PA Wire/Getty Images)

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NEWTON, N.C. (CBS Charlotte) – Run-down, vacant warehouses and factories may not have any use for their former inhabitants in one east North Carolina town, but thieves have cashed in on the buildings for their copper in the past few months.

Police in Newton, N.C., are still responding to the string of thefts that have targeted abandoned warehouses and factories that are packed with tens of thousands of dollars in copper wiring, with some buildings having copper values in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Copper thievery in towns like Newton serves as another example how the value in metal products has gone up in recent time.

Newton Police Chief Donald G. Brown told CBS Charlotte that while stealing copper has been frequently happening in the area for around five years, the volume of the incidents has gone up dramatically in the past 12 months. Though just four businesses have been hit, the buildings have been repeat targets, one of them being hit eight times in a short period of time, Brown said.

“Here in Newton, we’ve experienced our fair share of them,” he said, adding that police may not realize an abandoned building has been hit as the owners don’t check the buildings on a daily basis.

The most significant take to date for Newton’s copper thieves came Dec. 13 when more than $200,000 in property and building damage came as a result of the copper heist. This came after police had made two arrests of groups of copper thieves in November, as they were targeting old hosiery mills that were converted into furniture manufacturing warehouses, ripe with copper.

Brown has put extra focus on trying to limit the number of copper-related incidents, assigning a specialized unit of three officers to specifically cover any buildings in the town’s 13-square-mile radius that are susceptive to these potential thefts.

“I’m sure there are many other groups out there who are doing this,” Brown said, stating that the groups that have been arrested await their grand-jury court dates. “We do not have any other leads.”

If convicted, the copper thieves face felony charges of breaking and entering and larceny, with a good chance of jail time and a fine.

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