Gulfport Police Crackdown On Copper Theft

From construction sites to utility poles, copper thieves are making their presence known in South Mississippi.

"We've actually seen 26 cases of copper theft over the past year.  We normally have three to four," says Cindy Duvall with Mississippi Power.

They're even hitting storm-damaged homes.

"We've had reports from people whose homes are vacant," says Gulfport Deputy Chief Alfred Sexton.

Sexton says one reason is the increased value of copper. From recycling centers to online metal trade sites, copper ranges anywhere from $2.50/pound to nearly $4/pound. State statues require recycling centers to keep records on who they buy metals from, something Sexton says can help police catch the thieves.

"We work with all our scrap metals in the city to ensure those records are being maintained and also they're working with us," says Sexton.

To keep a closer eye on construction sites, sometimes prone to theft, Gulfport Police are introducing a new program to help step up security.

"We're going to start a site watch.  We can make sure our officers here know what construction is going on here. When you drive by, you will know the contractors have registered that site with us and that site is being looked at and looked after," says Sexton.

Mississippi Power says it's also stepping up security.

"We are putting in cameras. We have installed alarm systems, and we are using armed guards, as well as working closely with the police department," says Duvall.

Ultimately, Sexton says police need the community's help to crack down on copper theft.

"At night or during the day, if you smell something that appears to be rubber or something burning call report it because, most likely, it's a burn site," says Sexton.

Sexton says the more the community helps, the less likely crooks will look to copper as a quick cash in. He says Gulfport police have been actively arresting and charging copper thieves, and law enforcement along the coast are working to curb the increase in copper theft.

If you would like report someone you suspect of stealing copper, you can call Crimestoppers at 1-800-433-TIPS.