You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.

X

Welcome to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

live video

West Liberty-Salem officials discuss student’s first day back after shooting

Ohio’s metal thefts epidemic worsening

Ohio tops U.S. in insurance claims.Cincinnati, Cleveland rank among nation’s 10 hardest-hit areas.


Ohio leads the nation in insurance claims linked to metal theft, according to a new report released today, as metal thieves continue to cause untold amounts of damage to properties across this region.

Victims of metal theft often get stuck with repair bills for thousands of dollars, because the thieves punch through walls, ceilings and floors to access metal wiring and piping. The crime can threaten public safety, because thieves sometimes target communications systems and infrastructure.

Police and Ohio lawmakers have attempted to crack down on the activity by imposing new regulations on scrap yards and devoting more resources to catching criminals. But metal thieves often target unoccupied and unguarded buildings and sites, and the criminal cases can be very difficult to solve. Law enforcement said witnesses are essential to identifying suspects, and they need the public’s help to prosecute the responsible culprits.

“The public needs to be aware that this is happening,” said Lt. Anne Ralston with the Ohio State Highway Patrol. “When they see suspicious activity around a certain location, they need to call law enforcement immediately and report that.”

Between 2010 and 2012, 3,228 insurance claims linked to metal theft were reported in Ohio, the most of any state nationwide, according to a report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Texas had the second most claims, 2,624, followed by Georgia with 1,953 claims. Alaska and Wyoming had the fewest claims, with seven each during that three-year period.

Since 2010, thieves across southern Ohio have stolen copper wiring and pipes from churches, schools, construction sites and many businesses, including an abandoned miniature golf course.

Thieves often feed drug habits

Thieves have stripped metal from many foreclosed homes, often destroying parts of the structures in the process.

In March, a Vandalia resident discovered that a single-family home he owned had been broken into, and someone stole all of the copper water piping in the basement. The basement of the home flooded as a result. The damage was extensive.

In April, a man and a woman entered a construction site in west Dayton and filled up the beds of their pickup trucks with scrap metal and fled. Air-conditioning units in Dayton disappear with some frequency because they contain valuable metals.

On Tuesday, Chris Knox, 37, was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court for breaking into at least 20 unoccupied residences in Oakwood and Kettering. Knox cut and removed copper piping and other metal that supplied the furnaces and air conditioning units in the homes, which were either vacant or under renovation, said assistant county prosecutor Ward Barrentine.

Knox then sold the metal at a scrapyard in West Carrollton. Some of the homes he burglarized sustained between $8,000 and $10,000 in property damage.

“This crime destroys people’s structures and makes them uninhabitable, and these are people’s homes,” Barrentine said.

Barrentine said Knox had a heroin habit, and many people steal and sell metal to feed a drug problem.

But the high price of copper and other metals in recent years has partly fueled a rise in thefts, officials said. Copper is the most common type of stolen metal, but thieves also occasionally swipe bronze, brass and aluminum scrap.

Desperation and opportunity are other common motivations for the crimes.

“It doesn’t surprise me (that Ohio leads the country in metal theft claims), considering the downturn in the economy, the number of vacant structures we have and the relatively high price of these metals,” Barrentine said.

Metal theft sometimes not only ruins property — it can disrupt public safety.

Last year, metal thieves who attempted to steal fiber optic cables shut down 911 service in parts of southern Ohio and caused telecommunications outages for thousands residents, officials said.

Earlier this year, three men in Columbus were charged with stealing metal parts from a railroad.

“Unfortunately, the people who are involved in this for money-making reasons are attacking our own infrastructure,” said Ralston, with state patrol.

Scrapyards in Dayton take photographs of metal sellers, and some regularly assist police by reporting suspicious sellers, officials said.

Ralston said Ohio passed a new law that creates an online registry for scrap metal dealers in the state. She said it is another tool to detect illegal practices.

“Police departments, sheriff’s offices and other law enforcement are checking on those scrap dealers to make sure they are operating in compliance with the law, and they are not taking items that are illegal to possess or sell for scrap,” she said.

But police need the public’s help to identify suspects in metal theft cases, because other helpful evidence is not usually available, officials said.

Businesses and homeowners should protect their facilities and properties by locking gates and doors. Security systems can be useful. External lighting can also serve as a deterrent.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in News

The Limited parent company files for bankruptcy
The Limited parent company files for bankruptcy

The parent company of women’s clothing store The Limited has filed a voluntary petition for relief under chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Court, and the store website has been taken offline. The petition was filed by Limited Stores LLC in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. The company also entered into an asset purchase...
3 ways Dayton will be represented at the Oscars 
3 ways Dayton will be represented at the Oscars 

Dayton, you have some crazy-talented horses in the race for the Oscars.  The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the nominees for 2017 Oscars, and three films have local connections.  FILM: MOONLIGHT  LOCAL CONNECT: Hanna Beachler NOMINATED FOR: Several awards, including Best Picture Beachler, a Centerville...
Woman goes to hospital for back pain, learns she's pregnant with quadruplets
Woman goes to hospital for back pain, learns she's pregnant with quadruplets

Brianna Chambers contributed to this report. A Georgia woman and doctors at a Georgia hospital made history with the arrival of the hospital's first-ever set of quadruplets. >> Read more trending stories   Julie and Justin Davidson welcomed four daughters Saturday at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville. McKenna weighed 3...
Yellow Springs appoints interim chief
Yellow Springs appoints interim chief

YELLOW SPRINGS —  Brian Carlson has been selected to serve as interim chief for the village police department, according to village manager.  Carlson has served with the Yellow Springs Police Department since December 2010, when he was hired full-time. Two years later, Carlson was assigned as a detective to the ACE Task Force...
5 ways to celebrate National Peanut Butter Day
5 ways to celebrate National Peanut Butter Day

Rejoice, peanut butter lovers: Now you have the perfect excuse to enjoy your favorite treat. According to NationalDayCalendar.com, Jan. 24 is National Peanut Butter Day. Here are a few ways you can celebrate: 1. Help us settle the great debate. Which is better – crunchy or creamy? "Women and children prefer creamy, while most men opt...
More Stories