Copper theft caught on surveillance video

We’ve heard of criminals stealing from freeway lights, but now thieves are going straight to the source and ripping off suppliers and contractors.

Last month, a surveillance camera at Jack Endo Electric caught a criminal, whose face is covered with a T-shirt, going through the company’s warehouse and unspooling valuable copper. Later, you see a partner in crime.

“In the recent months, we’ve probably lost over $10,000 worth of copper,” said Steve Endo of Jack Endo Electric.

Endo says his family’s business has been ripped off numerous times.

“We didn’t have a camera in our warehouse before,” he said. “That’s why we spent more money to get a better camera but it didn’t deter them.”

In video taken from a different camera, the criminal is seen dragging the copper outside a warehouse that was locked behind a fence.

“They have the means to cut a metal warehouse in order to enter and they climb over the walls,” Endo said.

This isn’t the only company that’s been ripped off. KHON2 talked to three other electrical contractors who have also been victims of copper theft.

So why is the crime continuing, despite a law that’s been on the books for four years? Police says it’s because thieves are possibly selling it to people who are willing to buy it.

The law says anyone who wants to sell copper needs to show an ID and notarized paperwork proving it wasn’t stolen. The recycling company takes the seller’s picture and Honolulu Police will work with companies to confirm information.

But some recycling companies say not everyone is following the law. In fact, the number of people charged with copper theft on Oahu is increasing. Honolulu prosecutor’s office charged five people with the crime in the fiscal year 2011, seven people in 2012 and 10 people in 2013.

As for Endo, he hopes the criminals in his surveillance video will also be caught. He’s already spent and lost thousands of dollars to this crime.

“But all those small things eat into our costs where we have a hard time paying small vendors because the money went to that instead,” Endo said. “It’s a vicious cycle.”

In addition to surveillance cameras and good lighting, HPD says people can also protect their property by installing an alarm and motion sensor lights.

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