Copper thieves strike in Cleveland, Bradley County - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Copper thieves strike in Cleveland, Bradley County

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BRADLEY COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -- Investigators in Cleveland and Bradley County say more than $300,000 in heating and air units and other equipment was stolen and copper may be the driving force. More than $200,000 in equipment came from the same location, a vacant chicken farm on Bucks Pocket Rd. in Bradley County.

The property is for sale but when realtor Joe Stepp arrived on Tuesday to show it, he noticed a few things missing. The heating and air units at the main house were gone and a massive generator used on the chicken farm was also missing. Special wiring was also cut and stolen. In all the thieves got away with about $260,000 worth of equipment.

"We do have these reports filed with us sometimes weekly, sometimes every other week," says Bob Gault with the Bradley County Sheriff's Office. He says copper thefts peaked earlier this year so investigators enlisted help from businesses like All Metal Salvage in Cleveland.

Mike Hodnett owns the business and says he's called for officer reinforcement a couple of times. "We've had times when we've had to do that. We've had them handcuffed right out here in the parking lot," says Hodnett.  

A window air unit is one of his recent purchases; he says is worth about $25. "So it's not very much but the big units that were stolen, you're talking about a whole lot more money," Hodnett says.

Hodnett says the price for copper by the pound is $2.50. It may not seem like a lot of money but Hodnett does not believe metal thefts will slow down any time soon and he would know, he's also a victim of copper thieves. "I really am pleased to try and stop some of this," he says.

The Cleveland Police Department is also investigating a rash of heating and air unit thefts worth more than $50,000. An eye witness describes seeing a man in his 50's, driving an older gray Ford Pick-up fleeing the scene of one of these thefts.

A cash reward is being offered for any information on these stolen units or suspect(s) identity. Contact Detective Matt Jenkins at (423) 303-3134 with any information you may have.

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