Metal thefts from Utility Authority continue

Published 1:55 pm Tuesday, December 7, 2010

For the second time in six months the Pearl River County Utility Authority has been the victim of metal thefts.

Last week Utility Authority personnel noticed that several items were missing from the current waste water treatment plant located on Airport Road, said Operations Manager Cliff Diamond.

An inventory check was conducted at the site, which found that several scrap water meters, old electric motors and generator cables were missing. Diamond said all of the items were stored at the site, and the generator cables were stored under at least two locks.

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“It’s almost like somebody knew where to look for them,” Diamond said about the cables.

Of all the items stolen, the cables were the most valuable. Diamond estimates they cost about $8,000. In all, about items made of metal and valued at about $10,000 were stolen from the site, most likely sometime during the Thanksgiving week.

Diamond said it appears the suspect or suspects entered the compound through a hole in the fence and carried the items out of the site through the woods in the back.

This is the second time in six months that items have been stolen from a Utility Authority site. The first theft occurred in June at the site of the new waste water treatment plant on Neal Road and also involved the theft of expensive generator cables.

Diamond hopes the new treatment plant will be complete within the next 30 to 60 days, enabling the Utility Authority to store equipment, cables and other material that seems to be high on thieves lists of most-desired objects in a more secure location. In the meantime, the Utility Authority board will consider whether or not it should  temporarily hire security guards or employ security cameras to catch would-be thieves. He said a suspect, or suspects, for the first theft in June has not yet been identified.

Picayune Police Deputy Chief David Ervin said thefts of metal products have been constant in the recent past and those thefts at times include storm grates. In the past, officers have been able to find some of the stolen items at scrap yards, which have recently been abiding by new laws that require the scrap yards to collect personal information of people bringing in such items. Ervin said those new laws have enabled the department to catch more suspects.

Ervin asks any community member who may have information about the thefts from the Utility Authority to report it to the Picayune Police Department at 601-798-7411 or to CrimeStoppers at 601-799-CLUE (2583).