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Copper thieves come to Otero County

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Nov 20 2012 01:30:29 AM CST

A big-city crime comes to the country.

OTERO COUNTY, Colo. -

A crime usually associated with bigger cities -- copper theft -- has come to rural Otero County.

The sheriff's office said in the past two weeks, copper plumbing or wiring has been stolen from two locations with a total value of around $28,000.

The first location was a vacant house at the intersection of County Roads 14 and EE where authorities said   $8,000 worth of copper was taken.  The sheriff's office said the copper was stolen between Oct. 23 and Nov. 5.  The house has since been locked up.

A neighbor who said he saw the damage, said some copper was left behind, likely because the thief cut if from a live propane line and may have been scared away by the hissing sound of escaping fumes.

The sheriff's office said on Halloween night, more damage was done at a nearby county gravel pit a few miles east of the house.  Around $20,000 in copper was taken there, and some structures were burglarized as well.

The sheriff's office was unavailable Monday to provide further details of the thefts.  However, thieves commonly steal copper and try to sell it at scrap yards.  The regional price of scrap copper ranges from $1.90 to $3.00 per pound.  Nationally, the price is $3.52 pound -- down from a 2012 high of $3.97 on Feb. 9.

Frank Blue, a neighbor who lives in the copper theft area, said he's concerned and will be more cautious.

"When does it go past the copper, to car stereos or whatever?" he said.  "It's probably someone local (the thief) because who else knows how to get out here and knows where the empty houses are?  We should probably get to know our neighbors a little better."

Although the thefts happened several weeks ago, many neighbors said they hadn't heard about them until KRDO NewsChannel 13 reported on the story Monday. 

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