Sacto 9-1-1
June 14, 2011
13 arrested in raids on suspected copper theft operations

By Cathy Locke and Max Ehrenfreund

Thirteen people were arrested today in raids of suspected copper theft operations in and around Walnut Grove by the Sacramento, Solano and San Joaquin County sheriff's departments.


Photo: Sacramento County Sheriff's SWAT team members stand outside a residence where several supected copper thieves were detained and or arrested following a long investigation. Randy Pench

Sacramento County Sheriff's spokesman Deputy Jason Ramos said search warrants were served at three Walnut Grove locations.

The raids were the result of a two-month investigation. Ramos said no arrests were made in Solano or San Joaquin counties, but the neighboring law-enforcement agencies participated because it is believed the targeted operations may have been involved in copper thefts in those counties.

Ramos said late this afternoon that he did not yet have the names the people arrested. They face a range of charges, including burglary, grand theft and possession of stolen property. Some of the individuals also were taken into custody because of previous outstanding warrants, he said.

The raids turned up only small traces of copper, but Ramos said that is not unusual because the materials typically are quickly turned over to recyclers. Tools consistent with those used in copper thefts were found, he said.


Photo: Suspects who are believed to to be responsible for multiple copper thefts are detained in Walnut Grove by Sacramento shefiff's deputies. Randy Pench

Law-enforcement officials believe the suspected thieves may have been responsible for more than $1 million in damages resulting from copper thefts in the area.

In addition, officers recovered stolen property including firearms and an all-terrain vehicle, which had been taken in residential burglaries. Ramos said detectives believe that the suspects in the vandalisms and copper thefts are also responsible for a large number of rsidential burglaries that have occured in the southern part of Sacramento County since the beginning of the year.

This morning, a plainclothes officer and a SWAT team in camouflage gear carrying automatic rifles waited outside a house in the 14700 block of Race Track Road. Three suspects were detained in a van, and another had been arrested and removed from the premises.

The house was hidden from the road by a pear orchard.

In a gravel yard in the 1400 block of River Road, three men detained by authorities sat in the shade beneath a shed awning. A Solano County sheriff's dog sniffed at tools and equipment several paces away.

Ramos said the investigation is continuing. Detectives are working to identify other individuals involved in the copper thefts, as well as any recyclers who are partnering with the suspects.

Officials believe some metal recyclers are making it easy for copper thieves to operate by failing to follow proper procedures when purchasing scrap metal. Recyclers are supposed to request identification from the person selling the metal, photograph the vehicle delivering the material and document where the metal came from, Ramos said.

Anyone with information about the thefts or people involved in the crimes is asked to call the Sheriff's Department at (916) 874-5115.


Photo: Copper thieves were arrested at three locations in Walnut Grove by Sacramento sheriff's deputies. A Solano County deputy sheriff uses his dog to search the property. Randy Pench

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