"It's a huge economic disaster": Copper crooks swiping millions from local economy
Reporter: Marcelino Benito
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Metal theft: an old problem that's only getting worse. It's getting so bad Tucson's City Council stepped in to talk about it Wednesday afternoon. The thieves are blasting a million dollar hole right out of the local economy.
"Everything is a target," said councilman Steve Kozachik.
If it's metal, they want it. Thieves will break into your backyard, home or business to rip it right out from under you. They'll do it once, twice and as many times as you let them. It's costing all of Tucson. By stripping away at an already fragile economy.
9OYS reporter Marcelino Benito asked Amber Smith, Executive Director with the Metropolitan Pima Alliance, how frustrated businesses are with repeated metal thefts. She replied, "Extremely frustrated. They've put up fences, wiring, hired private security businesses, installed cameras. It's getting harder and more expensive to protect themselves and their businesses when they're not getting revenue."
From January to June of this year, thieves ripped off more than $2 million in assets stolen. The cost to repair all that damage can by three times as much.
Statewide metal theft has come at a cost of $120 million.
"This is a huge economic disaster quite frankly," Smith said.
Council members are demanding more action and TPD is stepping up. Metal theft intelligence is better than ever. Detectives know the type of people they're looking for.
"A drug addicted individual driven by the desire to get next fix," Lt. Tom Earley said.
TPD says they've made 34 major busts. But arrests aren't enough.
"An arrest is never enough because if you can't prosecute them the arrest is pointless," Earley said.
City leaders plan to work with agencies to lobby legislators for tougher laws that give prosecutors the tools they need to fully go after the copper culling culprits.
"We've made a dent, but that's all it is, a dent," Kozachik said. "We still have a huge problem in this community."
Council members credit TPD for the work they're doing fighting metal theft, but as 9OYS has repeatedly reported, the police department is doing what it can with very limited resources.