Gulfport Police Department Cracking Down On Copper Thieves

On Friday, the Gulfport Police Department launched a new program they hope will crack down on the crime.

From construction sites to storm battered homes, thieves in south Mississippi have been stealing and cashing in on copper.

"It's certainly increased since the storm. You've got many, many more construction sites today than you did before the storm, and they're prime targets," said Capt. David Waltman of the Gulfport Police Department.

Last week, Gulfport Police arrested some people they say were stripping copper from the historic Markham building, in the heart of downtown Gulfport. And police say the thieves show no mercy even when it comes to people struggling to rebuild their homes.

"It utterly breaks our hearts to see people who are trying to rebuild their homes to be victimized again by these thieves who come in and strip the copper out of their construction sites," Captain Waltman said.

It's a problem that has grown nationwide and along the coast, especially since the price of copper has increased 24 percent in the past year. But on Friday, the Gulfport Police Department launched a new program to step up security and crack down on copper stealing thieves. It's called Site Watch.

"It allows the property owner or construction manager to registers the site with the police department. As part of the registration, we gain contact information, phone numbers, and all of that. Then after hours, on the weekends, or whatever, if we find someone one on that site, we have phone numbers to call to verify whether they should be there," Capt. Waltman said.

Police believe this will lead to swift justice for a crime that is on the rise.

To sign up for Site Watch, call (228) 868-5703.