Arrest made in copper theft

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Craighead County law enforcement officers acted on several reports from area farmers concerning copper pipe thefts from pivot irrigation systems and made two arrests on Thursday, March 10, involving seven counts of theft.

Eastern District Deputy Sheriff Garland Tipton shows pivot involved in copper pipe thefts. (Town Crier photo/Nan Snider)

Charles Smith and another juvenile male suspect were arrested at a Monette residence after an investigation revealed the two had sold several pounds of #2 copper at a salvage yard in Paragould. Similar thefts were also disclosed in Mississippi and Greene Counties.

"We had been investigating the thefts for over three weeks, following up on tips," Eastern District Deputy Sheriff Garland Tipton said. "Shapiro Brothers Salvage, on Hunt Street, keeps good records and those were very helpful to us. "The copper sells for about $3.35 a pound. The thieves obtained the copper by cutting the end off of the pivot irrigation system and pulling out the copper pipe. There was about $200 to $250 worth of pipe obtained at each pivot, but it will take about $7,500 to replace the pipe. The average pivots are about one quarter mile long, and they contain a lot of copper pipe. The pipe has a black insulating coating on it, which is burned off before taking it to the salvage yard.

"Copper theft cases have been ongoing this year, and thieves even take copper from radiators, air conditioners and power units," Tipton said. "Farmers are keenly watching their pivots now, to prevent the continuance of the thefts."

This was Smith's first offense and District Judge Keith Blackman in Lake City Court set his bond at $10,000 on March 24. The juvenile will be charged as an adult as he will soon be turning 17.

Other officers involved in the arrest of the copper thieves were deputies Justin Rolland and Terry McNatt, with assistance from Eastern District Secretary Wanda Shasteen.

"It takes a lot of teamwork to track the thieves down and obtain necessary evidence to take them to court," Tipton said. "Unfortunately copper thefts are increasing everywhere, as the price of copper increases. Our survelience network is increasing also and we are having great success at tracing the copper after it is sold."

Other court cases involved Julie Cross, of Paragould, charged with burglary and theft of tools from a home in Dixie. This was her first offense and bond was set at $1,500.

Randy Cockrell, 105 E. Tennessee Street, Caraway, was charged with commercial burglary and theft of 4,750 pills from Caraway Drug Store. Entry was made at the east side of the downtown building. Making the arrest were Caraway Police Chief Pete Hicks and officer Justin Faulkner. This was not Cockrell's first offence, and Judge Blackman set bond at $25,000.

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