Burglars target costly metals in Whidbey heists

The high price of metals, specifically copper and gold, has caused some problems on Whidbey Island.

On Sept. 5, a North Whidbey resident noticed that six-foot sections of “ground wires” were missing from seven power poles on Van Dam Road.

Dorothy Bracken, a spokesperson for Puget Sound Energy, confirmed that the wire thefts occurred, but she wasn’t aware of any outages. She said the price of copper skyrocketed over the summer, causing a comparable jump in the theft of copper wires statewide.

Bracken said it’s most common for copper thieves to strike copper-rich power substations, but they sometimes go after power poles, too. She encourages residents to report any suspicious activities in the area of substations or power poles.

“It’s not just a crime, it’s a danger to the burglar, as well as the public in general, when electric equipment has been removed,” she said.

Bracken said power companies in the region have been working with law enforcement to make it more difficult for thieves to sell copper to scrap metal dealers.

In Oak Harbor, the concern is over gold jewelry. Detective Sgt. Teri Gardner with the Oak Harbor Police Department said she’s seen a series of burglaries in the last six weeks that lead her to believe that intruders are after gold jewelry. The price of gold hit an all-time high this summer, but dropped somewhat this week as the dollar rose in value.

The number of burglaries isn’t higher than usual, but there’s a new emphasis on jewelry, as well as computers. Gardner said there’s been 10 residential and five commercial burglaries since Aug. 1. Over the same period last year, the department investigated nine residential and seven commercial burglaries.

The unusual thing about the home break-ins, the detective said, is that half occurred during the daytime. That should serve as a reminder to residents, she said, to lock their doors whenever they leave. Most burglaries are crimes of opportunity.

In addition, Gardner said people who are going away for a length of time should take precautions to secure their precious metals, whether it’s a safe, a safe deposit box or a treasure chest buried in the backyard.


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