Baltimore County Police Released this Statement on May 15, 2012
Chief Johnson Creates Region’s First Metals Theft Team
Baltimore County, Md. (May 15, 2012) – Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson has created the region’s first law enforcement team dedicated to the growing problem of metals theft.
While the theft of copper, steel, aluminum and other metals accounted only for 4.3 percent of thefts in Baltimore County in 2011, the number of metals thefts has more than tripled since 2009, at a time when overall thefts decreased by 7.4 percent.
Copper is a favorite target because the price has skyrocketed. Since 2009 copper thefts have increased by more than 450 percent; as a percentage of all metals thefts, it has almost doubled.
Chief Johnson explained the scope of the problem and the strategy behind the new metals theft team yesterday morning at a press briefing at BGE’s White Marsh Learning Center.
BGE President Ken DeFontes said that BGE is a major victim of metals theft; utilities are a favorite target.
Chief Johnson noted that while metals theft is not a new crime, it used to be committed mainly by people desperate for a few dollars. Now, however, it has become a sort of illegal “business” conducted by people who have discovered they can make a good living by stealing copper and other metals and selling them as scrap at scrap dealers here and elsewhere.
The cost of this crime far exceeds the value of the metal itself. Thieves destroy entire buildings by ripping out drywall and cutting pipes, often leaving the water to flood the structure. They ruin entire systems by cutting wires, ripping out grounding bars, destroying the coils of HVAC systems. Copper gutters or lampposts, often found in historic districts, are an easy target.
About the Metals Theft Team
The team is part of the Property Crimes section, and includes a corporal and four detectives.
Johnson said the scope and impact of this crime requires a strategic, focused effort. The team is charted with educating property owners and business about it; developing relationships with the county’s 10 scrap dealers as well as dealers in surrounding jurisdictions; combing daily incident summaries to identify the early signs of metals theft trends; monitoring regional trends; and networking with other agencies and corporate security.
A single suspect may be responsible for dozens or even hundreds of metals theft cases. For example, a Baltimore man named Derrick Wingate is suspected in 47 home burglaries in Pikesville and Woodlawn along the Liberty Road corridor between December 11 and April 30. He awaits trial in both Baltimore County and Baltimore City.