Police make large copper theft bust, millions in damages

PINE BLUFF (KATV) - Three suspects were behind bars Friday night after a major copper theft bust in Pine Bluff earlier this week. Officials say the damages totaled over five million dollars.

"Probably the biggest theft of copper that we've seen in one single incident," said Lafayette Woods Jr., Spokesperson for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.

It's a crime that will likely go down in history as the biggest copper theft bust Arkansas officials have ever made.

"A total of actually five and half million dollars in damages taken from copper," said Woods.

Twenty-two out of twenty-eight Union Pacific train engines were completely stripped of copper. There were $250,000 worth of damages caused to each engine bringing the total to more than five million dollars. Finding the people responsible wasn't so hard.

"In the course of assessing the damage, coincidentally, they ended up running across an individual that was in the act of stripping more copper," said Woods.

As if the coincidence of finding a suspect at the location wasn't enough, officials were in store for yet another surprise.

"The sheriffs department and investigators arrived to render assistance and subsequently ended up locating another individual who was there and he was too arrested along with a third," said Woods.

Copper thefts are becoming a growing epidemic all over the country, costing over 1 billion dollars in damages a year. Officials say are doing their best to catch criminals but with the rising cost of metals there's a bigger incentive than ever.

"If there was not a market for it and there wasn't individuals who are willing to pay the money top dollar for it, it wouldn't be as fruitful as it is now," said Woods.

Officials say the damage was made on Monday and was discovered on Tuesday. The three suspects appeared in court Thursday morning and each face a charge of felony theft. Police believe there are several other individuals involved in this crime that are still on the loose.