Law enforcement officials are grappling with a new wave of copper thefts across Minnesota.
The metal is used to make everything from pipes and wires to circuit boards and electromagnetic motors. The thieves are taking just about all those things from recycling centers, empty storefronts and cemeteries in cities and town across the state.
Coon Rapids Police Capt. John Hattstrom says thieves are also cutting copper out of foreclosed homes, sprinkler systems and air conditioning units - and tracing the thefts is almost impossible.
"A copper pipe from one building to the next looks very much the same and you have to prove what came out of what property," he said. "The people that own these foreclosed and empty homes need to be aware of it and secure their properties well. We've been giving extra patrol through our squad cars, checking around on those properties when we can."
The price of copper may have something to do with the thefts. Its price sky-rocketed in 2005 and remains high, despite drops in recent months. Hattstrom said city and county officials in different parts of the state are working together to investigate the copper theft rings.