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Mayor Abramson and Chief White Address Metal and Copper Thefts

Tuesday July 15, 2008

Mayor Jerry Abramson and Louisville Metro Police Chief Robert White today focused on the problem of copper and other metal thefts as a part of the Keep Louisville Safe campaign. The two were joined by several partners including Louisville Gas and Electric and the Home Builders Association of Louisville during a press conference on the grounds of the annual Homearama at Locust Creek subdivision.

Across the country it's increasingly being called the "red gold rush" as prices skyrocket for all types of metals, including copper. Metro Police have taken reports for more than 1,000 stolen copper objects from January 1, 2007 through May 21, 2008, including such items as wiring, pipes, coil and tubing. The police reports show that no one is immune from copper theft with victims ranging from individual homeowners, churches, schools and assorted businesses. Items that are particularly hard hit include air conditioners, water pipes, electrical materials, gutters and downspouts.

"Metal thefts are more than just a loss for property owners, " said Abramson. "Thieves put our community in danger by climbing electric poles and breaking into abandoned homes. They may leave behind downed power lines, cut off electricity or disrupt critical communication centers. It's important for our citizens to be aware of this growing crime so they can take steps to protect themselves."

Beginning in January of this year, Louisville Metro enacted a new ordinance to regulate junk and second hand dealers. The ordinance requires any business buying metal or scrap to maintain a transaction record for each purchase, including a copy of the seller's government issued photo ID. The property may not be sold, altered or destroyed for five days following the date of purchase unless a digital photograph of the property is taken and retained with the transaction record. The ordinance also allows Metro Police to examine and inspect all transaction records during regular business hours.

"This new ordinance will greatly assist our officers in tracking down and hopefully retrieving copper and other metal items that may have been stolen," said Chief White. "Our citizens can also help by keeping their eyes and ears open," he added. "If you see someone climbing a pole or repairing an air conditioner at 3:00 am get involved by calling 9-1-1 or the crime tip hotline at 574-LMPD."

For the last several weeks, the local copper market has fluctuated at about $3.25 a pound occasionally reaching $4.00 a pound. Consequently, copper thieves have become increasingly brazen, often stealing the product from telephone and electrical wires, thus posing extreme danger not just to themselves, but the community as well.

"Safety is absolutely our first concern. The financial loss and property damage are important, but one also must consider the tragic outcome in some of these copper theft incidents," said Chris Hermann, Senior Vice President of Energy Delivery for E.ON U.S. "Copper theft is a nationwide issue and endangers innocent people. When common criminals remove copper serving as protective measures, it leaves a very dangerous situation for our employees and the public."

"We are glad to work with the Louisville Metro Police Department and the Mayor's Office in order to get this program started," said Mike "Rocky" Pusateri, President of the Home Builders Association of Louisville. "The theft itself could hurt the end consumers in an extreme way without this program. The problem with this theft," he continued, "is that it erodes at the fabric of affordability for the consumer, causing the bottom line that builders place on a home to rise since most will have to budget for the theft. We don't want people paying for the acts of a few."

Keep Louisville Safe is a public awareness campaign developed more than a year ago by the Louisville Metro Police Department. The campaign features various initiatives and partnerships to educate citizens and provide practical safety tips. Prior campaigns have included auto crime prevention, identity theft and the crime mapping tool MetroWatch.

For more information about the Keep Louisville Safe campaign, visit www.louisvilleky.gov or call 574-LMPD.