Thieves devising creative ways to steal copper in the Peninsula

Two men may be responsible for a number of copper heists at PG&E service stations around the Peninsula, most recently getting away with half a ton of the increasingly expensive metal at a service center in Daly City.

Dressed in white hardhats and driving a pickup truck painted in the old Pacific Gas and Electric Co. colors, police said, two men stole five coils of copper wire weighing 200 pounds each from the station, located at 450 Eastmoor Ave.

Bob Bondy, electrical construction supervisor at the site, said PG&E substations on the Peninsula and around the Bay have been targeted by what is possibly the same ring of criminals.

The rising price of copper, Bondy said is making the metal an attractive target for thieves, who are devising creative ways to steal hundreds of pounds of copper wire from construction sites, telephone polls, and PG&E stations on the Peninsula.

“We alerted scrap metal dealers with description of specific wires stolen,” Bondy said. “They’ll say they will cooperate, but we don’t know because the price of copper is near $4 a pound.”

Police agencies in the area agree: the price of copper, which rose from 65 cents a pound in 2001 to the current price tag of more than $3.80, provides thieves with a way to make a quick buck.

“It’s something we didn’t encounter in the past, but is a problem now,” said South City police Sgt. Bob Eastman.

In Colma, thieves have been targeting metal flower holders that sit on top of gravestones, Comm. Greg Hart of Colma Police Department said. In South City, electrical transformer boxes and air-conditioning units have been the main targets, police said.

Most suspects behind the thefts are drug users with a history of thefts and burglaries, but are often not from the Bay Area, according to Daly City crime analyst Jenni Velasquez, who has been working with other local police agencies on copper thefts.

“A lot of them are moving from place to place, they are even willing to drive all the way from Northern California,” she said.

Velasquez explained that once sold to scrap metal shops, the copper is often shipped to Asia, where it is needed for booming construction projects.

svasilyuk@examiner.com

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