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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Copper theft strikes UA again

    A break-in and theft of copper at the UA Materials Laboratory, 4717 E. Fort Lowell Road, may mark another year of high copper theft for the UA and Tucson.

    The Jan. 11 incident resulted in over $50,000 worth of damage and $3,000 worth in missing copper.

    Copper Theft Facts
    ? The Arizona Copper Theft Committee estimates the total damages of copper theft in the state are between $50 million and $100
    million annually.

    ? UA buildings where copper theft has occured: the Math building annex, the Center for Computing and Information Technology, the Meinel Optical Sciences building, the Robert L. Nugent building and several sorority houses.

    ? To help decrease copper thefts, the Arizona Legislature passed a bill last year requiring scrap metal dealers to record a seller’s personal information, take a photograph and require a driver’s license of anyone selling scrap metal like copper.

    ? Between 2005 and 2006 the University of Arizona Police Department reported at least 15 incidences of copper theft around campus.

    Facts gathered from Arizona Daily Wildcat archives and the Arizona Legislature Web site.

    “”It wasn’t just copper that was missing, but electrical wires were cut and solar panels were damaged,”” said Chris Kopach, associate director of facilities management.

    A week later, workers arrived to find that the thieves had struck for the second time over the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend.

    “”Within that building, we’ve had four thefts in the last month and a half,”” said Lloyd Wundrock, health and safety officer for risk management. “”Because the price of copper has increased many folds, it’s become more of a theft target on the UA campus.””

    Sgt. Eugene Mejia of the University of Arizona Police Department isn’t as worried about thefts on campus as he is about those outside of it.

    “”They usually target areas where they can get large amounts of copper in short amounts of time,”” he said. “”On campus, it would be a little harder to do so without being seen, due to high activity.””

    Wundrock said he agreed the building has been targeted due to its location several miles from campus. The only copper-related theft to have happened on campus over the last year was ground wires in one of the buildings, according to Kopach.

    Nevertheless, patrol supervisors of both the City of Tucson and UAPD were directed to increase their presence in the areas affected.

    Mejia said the people responsible for the thefts are most likely looking to sell the metal to scrap yards for some quick cash to feed their drug habits.””We’re hoping that recent law changes forcing people to show ID to buyers will decrease the frequency,”” he said.

    Thomas Anton, a refrigerator mechanic who called police officers Jan. 11, said the thieves got inside by cutting through the fence.

    “”The first thing I noticed was the smell of oil coming from up in the solar collectors and the next thing I noticed was the stain pipe sitting on top of the boiler,”” he said.

    Piping belonging to the solar array system as well as some that serves as plumbing were stolen. The pipes belonging to the solar array system had been filled with antifreeze, which is a poison, Wundrock said. “”They left many square feet of the liquid and we had to call in an emergency response company to clean it up,”” he said.

    The UA has dealt with problems concerning the same issue in past years, when the price of copper was also high. Last year, thieves targeted the power cords along campus for their source of copper, posing a threat to both themselves and others, according to Mejia.

    “”I think the entire community was affected by theft of many metals that were in turn sold for scrap metal for monies,”” he said.

    “”It’s a gain for themselves at the university’s expense,”” Kopach said.

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