Local News

October 10, 2012

Copper wiring theft mysteries solved

Police have busted a man they said is believed to have damaged heating and air units in at least two businesses and possibly a nearby home to steal copper wiring.

Raymond Patrick Shaw, 59, of 202 Long St. in Dalton, was charged in late September by the Dalton Police Department in connection with copper thefts at Material Handling Co. and Oriental Market, both on Glenwood Avenue. Shaw was still in the Whitfield County jail without a bond as of Tuesday evening.

Officer Matthew Kumnick said he was called out to Material Handling on Sept. 24 after workers there found air conditioning units that had been stripped of their copper tubing for the second weekend in a row. Kumnick said he found this copper theft wasn’t the only recent one in the area and that nearby residents had reported a “suspicious man” who had been seen in the area going into people’s yards and looking at houses.

“Officer Kumnick then went to Long Street and spoke to neighboring residents and learned where the suspicious man lived in the area,” police department spokesman Bruce Frazier said in a press release. “As he was waiting, the suspect came out and onto the street pushing a shopping cart loaded with copper wiring.”

Kumnick said he noticed the wiring looked similar to the stolen wiring and that the cut pattern matched what he’d just seen at Material Handling. The press release states Shaw initially told Kumnick he planned to recycle the material but denied he had stolen it. Police later located several components of air conditioners and heat pumps in Shaw’s back yard as well as air conditioner units, insulation for copper wiring and tubing, and tools for cutting wiring.

Later in his shift, Kumnick was called out to Oriental Market where he said he found a heat pump stripped of copper tubing.

“Kumnick remembered seeing a heat pump cover consistent with the unit in the yard behind Shaw’s residence nearby,” Frazier said. After obtaining a search warrant for Shaw’s residence, investigators found pipe cutters, a saw, two heat pump covers and a heat pump fan. Some of the items had pry marks and breaks in the metal that matched marks left at the scene at Oriental Market, the report states.

Frazier said witnesses reported Shaw had previously sold other stolen metals. Kumnick said officers don’t know the exact value of all the stolen copper.

“We do know on the street copper is one of the more valuable items,” Kumnick said.

Several people who post on various Internet sites about the price of copper report obtaining $1 to $2 a pound for un-stripped scrap copper. Metalprices.com shows better-grade copper can sell for an average of  $3.70 and $4 a pound.

Kumnick said copper thefts are sometimes the result of people reacting to a bad economy. He said it’s his understanding that Shaw is unemployed and was trying to make some money. Sometimes, unemployed construction workers use their knowledge to become expert thieves, Kumnick said. At other times, people steal copper to sell to support a drug habit, he said. Shaw wasn’t charged with any drug-related crimes.

Kumnick was named the department’s Officer of the Month for September for his part in getting to the bottom of the copper thefts. Another officer had previously tried to question Shaw in connection with copper theft at a nearby residence but was unable to locate him at the time. Kumnick said the investigation was “a team effort.”

Kumnick has worked for the department since May 2011, saying he moved there from a job as an insurance salesman because he wanted to “make an impact in the community in a positive way.”

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