Undercover operation nabs wire/copper thief suspects

Several major thefts occurred in Campbell River last year

It’s been one of the most costly crimes affecting North Island business the past few years: The theft of copper wire from construction and recycling sites.

Finally, on Monday, the RCMP’s Island District General Investigation Section arrested four people and charged one business, following a six-month investigation.

“Thieves steal copper utility wire from utility poles, and cable and metal objects from work sites, which is in turn traded for cash at metal recycling operations,” police said in a news release. “Over 160 metal theft cases across Vancouver Island in 2011 resulted in millions of dollars in lost product, and repair costs.”

In September 2011, a noticeable increase in metal theft cases led to the creation of Project ENOON, led by the investigation section with support from the Port Alberni and Nanaimo RCMP Detachments.

During the investigation, several metal recycling yards were identified as businesses alleged to be dealing in stolen metals.

An undercover operation took place in which police took metal, claiming it was stolen, to yards located in Nanaimo and Port Alberni.  The Nanaimo yard was a licensed business named Carl’s Metal Salvage, while the Port Alberni yard was an unlicenced operation based on private property. In all instances the metal was accepted by these yards.

Last week, police obtained arrest warrants for the following people, who now face charges:

  • Jean Dumont, 62, of Port Alberni: Four counts of attempting to possess stolen property.
  • Alain Tremblay, 52 of Port Alberni: One count of attempting to possess stolen property.
  • Carl Bernard Carlson, 56, of Nanaimo: Three counts of attempting to possess stolen property.
  • Carl Raymond Carlson, 32 of Nanaimo: Two counts of attempting to possess stolen property.
  • Carl’s Metal Salvage located in Nanaimo: One count of attempting to possess stolen property.

“Metal theft costs legitimate businesses millions of dollars in lost property, and repair costs annually. It can lead to lost communications and power failures, leaving some of our more vulnerable citizens at increased risk”, states Staff Sgt. Ray Carfantan, Commander of the Island District General Investigation Section.

Last year in Campbell River, there were about a dozen thefts of wire, 10 of which took place between late March and early April. Here’s a sample of some of the bigger heists:

  • Dec. 19, 2011, 7000 block Island Hwy. Owner advised that more than $5,500 in metal, metal wiring, a breaker and a breaker box had been stolen from the office. As well, an air conditioning unit was destroyed when the wiring was removed.
  • April 14, 2011, thieves break into Selkirk Recycling at 5551 Duncan Bay Road and steal $6,200 worth of number one copper and other high priced metals.
  • March 23, a locked compound was broken into at 5705 Island Hwy. and all the exterior copper service wiring had been removed. Value of the wire is approximately $20,000.
  • On March 7, 2011, thieves break into Lee Mac Electric on 17th Ave., and steal a quantity of copper wire valued at approximately $10,000.