Authorities Cracking Down on Scrap Metal Thefts

Police say it wasn't much of a problem before the storm.

Now after Katrina, authorities say the number of scrap metal thefts has greatly increased, from Biloxi's Golden Fisherman to stripping homes of their last remaing parts.

Nearly a month ago, an Alabama man was arrested for stealing Biloxi's Golden Fisherman.

Police say the man who stole it was trying to sell it for scrap, but the iconic statue wound up in a Mobile creek after the thief discovered the statue wasn't actually made of gold.

"He thought, I guess, the Golden Fisherman was made of a lot of valuable metals melted down, so he stole it, expecting to get a lot of money for it, and probably not worth a whole lot of money, except as an art object," said Biloxi Police Sgt. Jackie Rhodes.

At the stock market the price of precious metals, such as copper and nickel is at an all-time high.

Authorities say metal scavenging crimes are happening almost daily in South Mississippi.

"Scrap metal is a big business along the Gulf Coast, and with all the destruction from hurricane Katrina, buildings like the one behind me, have a lot of scrap metal here," Sgt. Rhodes said.

Many of these theft reports are coming from people who are trying to rebuild their homes.

Police say thieves often target copper plumbing and wiring.

"That's larceny. That's theft. If the value of the scrap metal is over 500 dollars, that's grand larceny, which is a felony. Everyone needs to keep in mind, all this property that's been destroyed belongs to someone. Any metals or anything that's on that property belongs to the property owner," Sgt. Rhodes said.