Bell County: Police, Recycling Centers Cracking Down on Copper Theft

By: Chinh Doan Email
By: Chinh Doan Email

BELL COUNTY (January 29, 2012)--There's been an increase in scrap metal, especially copper, sold in Central Texas, and recycling centers are working with state officials to make sure those scraps have not been stolen.

A higher demand for copper is making it more valuable and also more tempting to criminals who steal it in order to later resell.

Temple Iron & Metal has seen business increase about 20 percent in the past year.

"Most of them legitimate just trying to make money, trying to keep their homes going or feed their children," said owner Billy Bachmayer.

There are also those who steal anything from aluminum to bronze to nickel and try to sell it.

The high resale price of copper has triggered the market for thieves.

Copper comes in all shapes and sizes.

Pure copper is the most popular and can bring in at least $3 a pound.

"Copper is needed, and it's a hard product to produce," said Bachmayer.

"Any scrap can be melted and used again, and that's what gives it value."

So valuable that the recycling center averages about $50,000 monthly in copper alone.

The law requires recycling centers to record the seller's ID and vehicle information.

That information is reported daily to state officials.

The centers also must capture customers on camera and require them to sign releases that state what they sell belongs to them.

It's a lot of work for owners like Bachmayer, but he says it's all worth it to keep the honest sellers and get rid of the thieves.

"If people know you're doing that, thieves will find another place to go," Bachmayer said.

Copper theft can be a felony depending on the amount stolen.

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