Clark County Sheriff’s Department Solves Major Copper Theft, With Help from Statewide Online Tracking System and Scrap Metal Dealer

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Use of Metal Theft Investigation System helps Arkansas scrap metal recyclers and police identify and stop copper thieves and reduce costly and destructive crime.

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With the information provided to us by MTIS, this was a hands-down closed case. Once we showed them the photos and printouts from MTIS, the suspects were trying to work out a plea bargain before we were done interviewing them.

Investigators at the Clark County Sheriff’s Department arrested three individuals for the theft of more than 2,000 pounds of one-of-a-kind copper wire from South Central Arkansas Electric Cooperative, due in large part to the Metal Theft Investigation System, a statewide initiative that requires scrap metal dealers and recycling yards to report their purchases to law enforcement.

The 2,000 pounds of copper were sold to a scrap metal recycler, resulting in a loss of thousands of dollars in loss and collateral damages to the electric company. One of the individuals in this case lived less than a mile from the site where the copper wire was stored, and when arrested, was found to have an additional 300 pounds of stolen copper in his possession.

The LeadsOnline Metal Theft Investigative System (MTIS) is an online electronic reporting system that records important seller information that is collected by scrap dealers -- such as an image of the driver’s license and vehicle, type of metal sold and price it was sold for, digital images of fingerprints, and even pictures of the metal being sold. As soon as those images are taken and the information is uploaded, it is all accessible by law enforcement through the MTIS system.

“With the information provided to us by MTIS, this was a hands-down closed case,” explains Investigator B.J. Johns of the Clark County Sheriff’s Department, and the lead investigator on this case. “Once we showed them the photos and printouts from MTIS, the suspects were trying to work out a plea bargain before we were done interviewing them.”

South Central Arkansas Electric Cooperative was re-conducting their lines and taking down and replacing old copper. As a part of the process, the old wire was left in a scrap pile in a storage area, later to be moved and recycled. However, during routine pole-top rescue training at the storage area, workers noticed that most of the large pile of copper wire was gone.

The Metal Theft Investigative System is used on a statewide basis in Arkansas. State legislation requires all scrap metal dealers to report their information to law enforcement through this statewide metal theft database; the lead sponsor of the Metal Theft Legislation was Representative Darrin Williams, who worked hard to bring all interested parties together to find a solution that would reduce this destructive crime. “I am proud to see the system working so well,” says Rep. Williams. “Arrests like this that help stop metal theft crimes are the types of cases we knew would be solved using this system.”

Quick work by law enforcement and a check through the MTIS system led to the identification of the suspects and the recovery of the stolen copper. “We were very pleased with the results and how fast and efficiently this case was solved and our stolen copper was found,” says Randy Duncan, Operations Manager for South Central Arkansas Electric Cooperative. “We are impressed with the hard work of the Investigators at Clark County Sheriff’s Department and the useful information provided by the Metal Theft Investigative System.”

Metal and copper theft continues to be a large and costly problem in the state of Arkansas and across the country. As price of copper continues to rise and the subsequent number of copper thefts that occur as a result, the toll that metal thieves take on a community and business owners is increasingly expensive and destructive.

MTIS can help prevent metal thieves from profiting off the sale of stolen copper, helps identify known copper thieves and also recognize stolen copper that is often branded by companies when it is sold to scrap metal recyclers. Essentially, police can immediately identify a specific item and be immediately provided seller information -- and ultimately prove that the suspect brought in and sold stolen metal. Using the system is simple and efficient and it is a great record-keeping tool for scrap dealers. Investigator Johns explains this copper wire was easily identifiable and one-of-a-kind, used only by electric companies.

Investigator Johns also credits the diligent work of the scrap metal dealer for helping solve this case. “They are excellent with their record keeping and uploading and reporting their information to the MTIS system,” Investigator Johns says. There is no cost for businesses to use and report to MTIS.

Often, the act of stealing the copper is more destructive than the sale is profitable, and can be often associated with other crimes, such as drug-related offenses. Thieves will steal miles of wire from schools, churches, office buildings, car washes, and residences and in the process will knock out air conditioning and power, destroy buildings, cell phone outages, and tear up lawns, causing the victims to not only lose the copper but be forced to pay for additional repairs.

Metal Theft Investigation System (MTIS) is part of LeadsOnline, the nation’s largest online investigative system used by more than 3,000 law enforcement agencies to recover stolen property and solve crimes. Each day, millions of items are added to the LeadsOnline system by businesses including second-hand stores, scrap metal recyclers, pawnshops, and Internet drop-off stores across all 50 states. Those records are instantly available to law enforcement agencies, meaning crimes can be solved in seconds, not months. The LeadsOnline system, compatible with the NCIC, serves as an indispensible, efficient, and money-saving resource for detectives because it provides a cross-jurisdictional, instantaneous, and accurate database that stops criminals from escaping detection by selling stolen items in another city. An official eBay partner, LeadsOnline helps prevent illegal transactions on the eBay website by giving law enforcement access to the world’s largest online marketplace through automatic upload of all eBay transactions into the LeadsOnline database. LeadsOnline also includes LeadsOnlabs, a system for tracking those involved in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamines; a Metal Theft Investigation System designed to track copper and other metal thefts; and cross-checks names of pawn customers against the OFAC SDN list of known terrorists and narcotics traffickers. Each year, LeadsOnline is credited with recovering millions of dollars in stolen goods and solving thousands of crimes that are often associated with bigger crimes, such as homicide, identity theft, and arson. Based in Dallas and led by President and CEO Dave Finley, LeadsOnline works with thousands of agencies throughout the country, including the New York City Police Department, the Dallas Police Department, and the San Francisco Police Department.


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