July 8, 2014
More and more residents, businesses and churches are finding themselves victims of theft, copper and air conditioner thefts.
Thieves are going after copper wiring and piping to sell to junk yards in exchange for cash. They can also get copper from air conditioners, as well as other valuable materials.
Peoria police say there have been more than $500,000 worth of copper and air conditioners stolen so far this year. That's higher than in years past.
Investigators believe it's because the price of copper is going up.
"If you look at your pennies today, you're not going to find much copper in the pennies because the material has gotten so expensive," Lt. Willie King of the Peoria Police Department said.
A local developer is all too used to this kind of crime.
Michael Landwirth said in the last three weeks, he has had nine of his 11 air conditioners stolen from the top of the old VA building he owns.
That's $80,000 worth of equipment, and this is not the first time Landwirth has dealt with this issue.
"The people who own these businesses are upset about this, and we understand that," Lt. King said. "We want them to know that we're working hard and trying to apprehend these guys and stop this theft."
The Peoria police are currently working on a new ordinance that would have police and scrap yards working together. It would be similar to the Illinois law already in place. That requires scrap yards to get photo identification from every seller, along with other regulations.
The police and the scrap yards then use an online program to keep track of all the materials going through.
"If the ordinance is passed, and we can get the companies on LeadsOnline, it will make life a lot simpler for everyone and a lot harder for the people who are perpetrating on these acts," Lt. King said.
Police hope to have the ordinance ready for a first reading at the city council meeting on July 22.
At least one of the local scrap yards, Behr Iron and Metal, tells us its employees already check photo ID's for everyone.
Those employees also go through training to learn how to spot stolen products.