Council to address theft issue

WARREN – City officials are looking at ways to curb copper thefts and possibly moving forward with proposed legislation that addresses copper products such as tubing, gutter, wires and aluminum siding.

“The idea behind that is to allow enough time to make sure the person doing the scrapping has the proper permit to do so,” said Councilman Eddie Colbert, D-7th Ward, who has been pushing for the legislation.

Council has been drafting legislation and plans to discuss it more at its next meeting.

The proposed legislation would delay payment to scrappers – anywhere from 24 to 48 hours – for items sold to yards within city limits to allow the city’s environmental officer enough time to determine whether the materials scrapped were obtained legally or possibly stolen. Also, scrappers would need a permit to sell the items.

Colbert said he is hoping nearby communities, especially those with scrap or salvage yards, adopt similar legislation. He would also like it to become statewide. State law now requires them to show ID.

Although city lawmakers have addressed the matter several times, they stepped up discussions recently after a series of copper thefts this summer.

“The thing is it’s gotten so bad and to a point that these thieves aren’t just tearing up an abandoned house here and there, which is bad enough. They’re tearing up entire streets, neighborhoods. They haven’t just stopped with abandoned houses either. They’re hitting homes, businesses and places that are occupied,” he said.

A West Farmington man told police on Friday that three of his rental properties on Porter Street were damaged when copper items, including pipes, sink facets, aluminum door seals and a steel framed bed were stolen sometime between Aug. 28 and Friday, according to a Warren police report. The report also states the natural gas line at one of the houses and a water line at another was damaged.

“Something needs to be done,” property owner Raymond Miller said. “Until something is done, these people are going to keep doing this.”

On Sunday, police were called to investigate after a man, making a complaint on behalf of his elderly mother, reported the central air conditioning unit at his mother’s East Market Street residence was cut and stolen.

Thieves struck last month when copper wiring was taken from a North Park Avenue business. Joyce’s House of Beauty, 811 N. Park Ave. N.W., reported that 80 feet of copper wire, the electric hood and meter, worth about $500, were stolen from the business sometime late last month.

Cafe 422 on Youngstown Road S.E. discovered last week that copper gutters were stolen from the business within the past several weeks. An employee at the restaurant also alerted police that a storm sewer cover in the parking lot also was stolen.

In July, city police were called to investigate a series of battery heists at a city department, a bus service and an agency.

Additionally, at least two county buildings were hit by copper thieves.

According to Warren police reports, 21 bus batteries and 18 battery cables from 21 buses were stolen from buses at the the Trumbull Community Action Program. Also, Community Bus Services, 1976 Niles Road, reported eight batteries stolen from eight buses. Batteries from several city garbage trucks were also stolen while the vehicles were parked outside the sanitation department.

Approximately 15 to 20 feet of copper piping was removed from one of the six air-conditioning units at the rear of the building where the 11th District Court of Appeals is located on High Street.

Trumbull County Job and Family Services on North Park Avenue reported that copper piping 2 inches thick and 8 to 10 feet long was cut and removed from a ground level air conditioning unit in the rear parking lot area of the building.

“We know this is a problem and we’re looking at what we can do about it,” Colbert said. “We want to make it harder for copper thieves, but at the same time what we don’t want to do is restrict the person who maybe has an old washer or dryer or something they want to scrap or the guy out there collecting cans or other scrap to make a few extra dollars.

”We don’t want to cause those people undue burden. The goal is to deter thieves.”

Other council members said they agree with the effort. At-large Councilwoman Helen Rucker said she is pleased Colbert and other city lawmakers are looking to fine tune the proposal and work on drafting something practical and workable.

“I support the idea. I ‘m just making sure that the burden of cost is not on citizens and business that are not affected. I’m also concern about how it will be enforced,” she said.

Colbert explained that he sees the proposed scrap legislation as an extension of the legislation he pushed for and council passed earlier this summer that requires owners of vacant properties being foreclosed on to obtain a $10,000 bond.

The idea behind the vacant property registry is to make sure the owners of vacant properties secure all the doors and windows, keep grasses cut, clear trash and debris, and make sure the addresses are clearly visible.

“The first part creates a revenue source to tear down houses. It also keeps houses from being in the condition that makes them attractive to scrap thieves,” he said. “We know we can’t stop it completely. But we can try to deter these thieves and put a dent into what’s happening.”