EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSOHIO COPPER THIEVES
from Eyewitness News Online
Ohio Residents Targeted By Copper Thieves Speak Out About New Law
Reported by: Darrah Wilcox
Web Producer: Heath Harrison
Also Contributing: Tiersa Davis
Reported: Mar. 21, 2013 4:52 PM EDT
Updated: Mar. 22, 2013 9:11 PM EDT
Jackson , Jackson County , Ohio
Copper thieves targeting rural parts of southeastern Ohio are becoming a real annoyance to people like Jason Beair.
"It's happened two or three times this year. People don't think about it you know," he said.
Beair said the phone lines on his road, County Road 25, near Pedro, in Lawrence County, have been cut multiple times by copper thieves.
There is no cell service in the area, so a possible emergency becomes even more frightening with no landlines.
"My grandpa, he's 80 years old and he has a lot of health problems," Beair said.
Law enforcement are hoping a newly-enacted law in Ohio will help curb copper thefts.
"If they're climbing a pole in the middle of the night out in a rural area to cut wire, endangering their lives and the public as well, they know the risk that they're taking," Gallia County Sheriff Joe Browning said. "Now they're going to be subject to these felony penalties,"
Browning joined other law enforcement officials from southeastern Ohio counties to talk about a recent compliance check at scrap metal yards for the new law. Unless you're representing a company, you can no longer sell materials like utility wires, railroad items, or highway materials like signs and guardrails.
"If somebody comes in with graveyard items that are in their truck, plaques and markers from a cemetery and they don't work for a cemetery or they don't work for an organization that represents that, then there's a problem there," Browning said.
Several counties worked together to make sure those businesses were not accepting the items, and Browning said for the most part, they were in compliance. Those that weren't will face felony charges.
"It's going to be a tool that law enforcement can use to try to reduce these annoying, dangerous thefts of wire and cable, materials that really we need to protect our infrastructure and that we need to protect communication lines," Browning said. "It's going to be very helpful to local law enforcement."
Several Sheriff's departments from southeast Ohio met with the public on Thursday to talk about the growing problem with scrap metal thieves, and detailed law enforcement's efforts to crack down on them.
Since January, it is now a felony for scrap yards in Ohio to accept materials, such as phone lines and railroad parts unless you are represented by a company. Law enforcement from Gallia, Jackson, Scioto, Meigs, and other counties came together to make sure those scrap yards were not buying the materials.
Since February, undercover officers have tried to sell the restricted items to scrap yards in the area. Some scrap yards were compliant with the law and refused, but others bought the material and will face criminal charges.
Law enforcement said the trickle down effect of copper thieves impacts everyone.
"A lady tried to call for help and she couldn't get through because thieves had stolen the junction box and phone lines," Gallia County Sheriff Joe Browning said. "That's an infrastructure problem. That's why Ohio homeland security is trying to coordinate this to stop this stuff."
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