CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) - A southeast Missouri business owner says someone stole $20,000 worth of copper wire from outside his home, part of an ongoing nationwide problem with copper thefts.
J.W. Strack lives next to a stone quarry he owns on Missouri 74 in Cape Girardeau County. Strack told the Southeast Missourian that the roughly 6,000 pounds of copper wire vanished sometime Sunday or Monday night.
Strack is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction. He said it's the second time in a year he's been the victim of theft.
Cape Girardeau police have reported at least 19 thefts of copper wire in the past 12 months.
Copper thefts have become increasingly common in recent years. Thieves usually sell the copper for scrap.
Last month, thieves took more than $4,000 worth of copper wire from a De Soto, church where wire was stolen six months earlier.
Many communities have enacted tougher laws, such as requiring more accountability from scrap dealers.
Strack said the thieves are getting more brazen, and are even stealing wire during the daytime.
"It's gotten to be a pretty big deal," he said.
Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Department Lt. Eric Friedrich said theft tends to rise and fall with the price of copper. It became particularly attractive to thieves in 2011 and 2012, when prices exceeded $3 a pound for bare copper. The current price in southeast Missouri is in the $2.50 to $2.80 range, he said.
Missouri law requires sellers to present photo identification if they sell $50 worth of copper or more. Thieves often take it out of the area to sell, or divide it into smaller amounts and take it to several places, Friedrich said.