Police: E.V. copper thieves target pool pumps - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Police: E.V. copper thieves target pool pumps

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Posted: Saturday, January 10, 2009 8:48 pm | Updated: 1:29 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

You could be sitting on a copper goldmine of sorts that drug-addled thieves would love to claim. Copper thieves have stolen wire and pipe from places such as street lighting, abandoned homes and construction sites.

Now the Tempe Police Department says the thieves are after pool pumps.

There were 80 pool pumps ripped off Valleywide between April 29 and Dec. 5, police say. The loss is estimated at $74,000.

“This happens to be the newest trend,” said Katie McDevitt, Tempe police spokeswoman.

Stealing copper has become prevalent in recent years as the industrial growth of China sent prices soaring.

The metal was valued at $1.08 per pound on the commodities market in January 2004 and was going for $3.40 in August, although it has now dropped to $1.54 per pound for the highest grade.

Rey Hernandez, manager of Arizona Recycling in Mesa, said scrap copper is going for 75 cents to 85 cents per pound, but it was going for as much as $3.10 per pound in September.

And while copper theft has become commonplace, the thieves have become even more creative.

There have been trends that saw catalytic converters stolen from cars and metal flower vases taken from cemeteries to cash in.

Detective Steve Berry, Mesa police spokesman, said most copper theft is tied to drug addiction.

“They’re stealing the copper, obviously, to trade for money so they can purchase drugs,” Berry said.

John Neely, senior marketing and creative manager for Shasta Pools, said in an e-mail that pool pumps typically weigh about 50 pounds and are easily removed from back yards.

“You can take one out of a yard in about 2 minutes,” Neely said.

The average cost to replace a pump is $800, but that cost might be higher to replace a stolen one because re-plumbing or wiring might be required, Neely said.

McDevitt said it is hard to say when the thieves typically strike other than when no one is home.

People discover the missing pumps when they return from work or from being out.

The thieves also tend to enter through unlocked gates, police said.

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