Reward offered in copper thefts

Published 10:16 pm Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Two Atmore businesses are offering incentives for information that leads to the arrest of the man responsible for stealing thousands of dollars worth of copper from their property this past weekend.

According to Atmore Police Department investigator Chuck Brooks, a white male appearing to be in is mid-20s to early 30s stole a pile of copper from Audio Plus located on Hwy. 31 just before noon Sunday. It was later learned that the thief also broke into Alto Products located in the Atmore Industrial Park and stole copper from the premises earlier that morning.

The copper thefts are just two of many thefts throughout Atmore and the county for the valuable metal.

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“Copper is a big thing right now, and has always been,” Brooks said. “People do some strange things to get it. I really don’t know what the value is because copper goes up and down like everything else. It’s really a big thing for thieves to go in and get it, especially at businesses like Audio Plus that will perform a job, collect it and sale it later.”

Brooks said Audio Plus and Alto are teaming up and each offering $500 rewards in hopes of enticing anyone with information on the thief to share it with authorities.

“I want to get the guy off the streets,” Audio Plus owner James Helton said.

Helton said employees noticed that the copper had been stolen upon returning to work Monday morning. He said the thief left a trail of copper where he had moved it from the scrap pile and placed it in his vehicle and fled the scene.

“One of employees parks next to where the copper was stored,” Helton said. “The guy left a mess where he had been loading it.”

Audio Plus employees collect the copper from old wiring from jobs and recycle it throughout the year, Helton said.

“We recycle it a couple times a year and the employees split the money up,” he said.

Helton said he has had copper stolen three times during his 22 years in business. This time he said video surveillance cameras caught the thief in action, which prompted him to offer up a reward.

“It makes me feel violated,” Helton said. “This is the third time this has happened. We’ve got positive proof and haven’t had it before.”

Brooks advised those business owners and residents that deal with copper to “secure it the best way they can.”

“Don’t leave it outside or in view,” he said.

Brooks said the thefts occurred between 8 a.m. and noon Sunday morning. He said that the suspect would be charged for third-degree burglary for breaking into Alto and two counts of second-degree theft of property if captured.

The thief captured on surveillance footage made his getaway in a white Oldsmobile Alero.

If you have any information about this crime, you are asked to call the Atmore Police Department at 368-9141.

The copper thief, described as a white male in his mid-20s to early 30s, made his getaway in this white Oldsmobile Alero Sunday.|Surveillance Photo