Kirsten Mustain

Grove Sun

Across the nation copper theft is becoming more and more common, and Grove is no exception to the national trend.

Police Chief Mark Morris said his department has had at least five reports of copper theft in the past month.

“It’s a problem,” Morris said. “And it’s happening all over.”

With the cost of copper at a high premium – $3.26 per pound, according to market reports – thieves have been targeting abandoned buildings and businesses with alarming frequency.

When there aren’t any abandoned buildings or outdoor air conditioning units available, some thieves even turn to power poles, although that has yet to happen in Grove.

“It not only causes property damage, it can be dangerous,” Morris said. “It’s not uncommon for people to get electrocuted trying to steal copper.”

The thieves can sell copper pipes, parts of air conditioning units and other copper scraps at several area recycling businesses.

In response to the problem, Grove officers have stepped up enforcement, and an arrest was recently made as a result of this effort.

Michael Hansen, 46, of Grove, was taken into custody around 2 a.m. Monday, August 16, after he was caught by officers in the old hospital building apparently removing copper piping and fixtures, Morris said.

According to Morris, Officer Ryan Reiman discovered Hansen in the old hospital building at Main St. and Har-Ber Rd. while he was doing a foot patrol of the area to check for copper theft.

Reiman found a door on the premises that had been kept from latching with medical tape. Entering the building, Reiman heard noises he described as sounding “like a hand saw was being used,” and eventually found Hansen in the old ICU.

Morris said Hansen had apparently cut and removed numerous pieces of pipe from the building’s plumbing system and stashed them in a closet. He was in the midst of removing more copper when he was caught.

Subsequently, Hansen reportedly confessed to the copper theft when questioned by Detective James Highley.

“This was a great job by the patrol officers involved, and Detective Highley did a superb job of following up on the officers’ information to obtain a full confession,” Morris said.