August 2, 2008

$40,000 in Auto Parts Stolen: Apparently Taken for the Copper

By Carolyn P. Smith, Belleville News-Democrat, Ill.

Aug. 2--EAST ST. LOUIS Police are investigating the theft of more than $40,000 of auto parts from a local retail store for the copper they contain.

East St. Louis Detective Kenneth Berry said the theft occurred at Apex Auto Parts Co., located at 1220 First St., sometime between July 18-19.

Police said Friday afternoon that they have two employees in custody for questioning, but no charges have been filed.

Business owner Charles Ahring said the thieves stole $40,000 in auto parts and other items.

Ahring said this kind of loss "can't easily be replaced, particularly with the current economic conditions we're facing."

Ahring said he's been getting good cooperation from the police department and the community.

Berry is appealing to the community to get involved. He said the city of East St. Louis is being devastated by copper thefts. The thieves have hit a number of churches, businesses, houses, some old school buildings and even the Katherine Dunham Center.

In some instances, thieves have taken entire air conditioning units. Chief Michael Baxton said at the Dunham Center, thieves cut a fiber optic cable that was run underground.

"They burn the rubber from around the copper, get the copper, take it and sell it," he said.

Thieves are causing thousands of dollars worth of damage to only get a few hundred dollars worth of copper, which they sell or fence to make money to buy drugs, police have said.

Baxton said he met last week with the owners of Top Metal Buyers, the city's only metal recycling company.

"They're cooperating fully with the police department. They are taking photo ID's from individuals before they can accept any copper, metals or scrap. We have to get a grip on this situation by becoming very aggressive," Baxton said.

Any one with any information is urged to contact East St. Louis Police at 482-6700 or Crime stoppers at 866-371-Tips.


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