Thieves hit Old Depot

Published 7:21 pm Friday, March 2, 2012

Another local establishment has fallen victim to a copper theft crime that has caused thousands of dollars worth of damage.

Parts of two air-conditioning units were reported stolen at the Old Depot Museum on Thursday morning.

Selma Chief of Police William T. Riley said the units were targeted for the copper wire contained within.

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“Basically, the units were damaged because of the copper and the wiring inside, which was taken,” Riley said. “Preliminary investigation revealed that the entry was through a fence — it looked like the perpetrators cut through a fence — and then proceeded to damage and take parts and much of the air-conditioning units.”

Riley said the theft resulted in thousands of dollars of damage to the units.

“We’ve got one air-conditioning unit where the damage is estimated at approximately $10,000 and then we’ve got another one where we estimate the damage at approximately $15,000,” Riley said. “That’s one of the worst things about when they go after these air-conditioning units. They damage the unit just getting a small, insignificant amount of copper wiring out of it.”

Police were investigating possible evidence from the scene Friday and Riley said he’s hopeful a lead on a possible suspects will develop.

This is not the first time that copper theft has been an issue as the Selma Food Bank was struck twice late last year.

State legislation making it more difficult to sell the metal has been raised as a possible solution, and Riley expressed the hope that such a law would come to fruition.

“We’re hopeful that new legislation that’s making its way through state government will be passed that will make it much more difficult for individuals to sell raw material without the proper identification, without the other proper things in place,” Riley said. “We’re hoping that will hurry up and pass. It’ll really help us in the short run of dealing with copper theft and other precious metal theft.”

Riley said police will have to be extra vigilant, as criminals often try to take advantage of times when police are heavily focused on other events, such as the Jubilee.

“People will take advantage of crimes of opportunity and this is a thing we always worry about and we try to deal with,” Riley said. “They know we’ve got a lot of people in town, so they know we’ll be busy here and there, so we have to step it up and be extra vigilant of what’s going on out there as well.”