Police seek copper thief | SierraSun.com

Police seek copper thief

Kelly Ruane
Sierra Sun

Truckee police are looking for a Reno man suspected in recent thefts of copper wire from CalTrans highway power lines.

Authorities believe a recent attempt and previous thefts are the work of someone seeking to resell the copper because of the current high price of the industrial metal.

At 4 a.m. Tuesday morning, Sgt. Dan Johnston of the Truckee Police Department pulled over to check a car parked on the shoulder of Interstate 80 at the offramp to Highway 267, Truckee Police Lt. Randy Fenn stated in a press release.

When Johnston pulled up to the red Ford Ranger, the driver ran from the vehicle into the woods north of the interstate, Fenn stated.

Upon inspection, Johnston found several junction boxes had been pried open and a cable attached to the copper wires inside. The cable was connected to the parked vehicle, which had begun pulling the wiring from the underground housing, he said.

Johnston recovered several feet of wiring from the roadside as well as from the bed of the pickup truck, Fenn disclosed in the news release.

CalTrans reported a similar theft on July 5 when more than 4,800 feet of copper wiring disappeared from its junction boxes at the inspection station on Interstate 80.

From items found in the abandoned truck, authorities have identified a Reno man as the suspect in several similar thefts reported in the Truckee and Tahoe areas, Fenn said.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Fenn said stealing copper wire has become a popular crime.

“Copper’s trading at a very high value right now,” Fenn said. “It’s a phenomenon happening all over the country.”

According to Recycle World USA, there are 22 types of copper that can be sold to scrap metal recycling centers. Prices range from 21 cents to $3.24 per pound.

Police would not release the identity of the suspect, saying their investigation is continuing. A damage and loss estimate for CalTrans is pending.