A local quarry owner is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever stole about $20,000 worth of copper wire from him earlier this week.
J.W. Strack, owner of Strack Stone Co. on Highway 74, said the copper was in front of his house at the quarry when it vanished sometime Sunday or Monday night.
"I live right there at the quarry," he said. "I mean, I'm right there, and they stole it out from under my nose."
The wire was gone by Tuesday morning, Strack said.
"It was over probably 6,000 pounds of scrap copper if they scrapped it out," he said. "It was good, usable copper, most of it."
Strack said he has talked to several people who have had copper wire stolen from them recently.
"It's gotten to be a pretty big deal. They're doing it during the daylight and everything, people's telling me," he said.
In the past year, Cape Girardeau police have reported at least 19 instances of copper wire theft.
In September, a would-be copper thief broke into an electrical substation in Miner, Mo., and tried to cut through a 7,200-volt line in an attempt to steal about $30 worth of wire -- a move officials said endangered both the person trying to steal the wire and the power company employee who had to repair the damage.
Lt. Eric Friedrich of the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Department said theft tends to rise and fall with the price of copper.
In 2011 and 2012, prices exceeded $3 a pound for bare copper, he said, making it a particularly attractive target for thieves, who targeted empty houses and even farmers' irrigation systems, causing extensive damage.
"The price of copper doesn't come ... close to what it would take to rewire a house," Friedrich said.
Although he didn't have specific numbers, Friedrich said copper theft reports have been down since the price dropped. Copper brings $2.50 to $2.80 a pound locally, he said.
"We didn't take nearly the amount of reports we took probably in 2012 and 2011. When the prices go up, it seems like they know about it, and they go out and start stealing it," he said.
Friedrich said copper theft is difficult to detect.
State law requires sellers to present photo identification if they sell $50 worth of copper or more, but many thieves simply take the metal out of the area to sell it or divide it up into smaller amounts and take it to several places, Friedrich said.
"It's hard to say where all of it goes," he said.
Copper is more likely to be stolen if it is out in plain view, Friedrich said.
"If you've got this large abundance of copper wire sitting around, it needs to be somewhere (inside). It doesn't need to be outside," he said.
Strack said the theft this week was the second time he has been hit by thieves in the past year.
"I'm a little bit upset," he said.
Strack said the theft didn't just cost him money; it hurt his employees.
"Things are tough anyway, and we're trying to see how our fiscal year ended up -- you know, bonuses and stuff -- and that's going to take a big chunk out of it," he said.
Anyone with information about the theft is asked to call Strack at 335-9430 or the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Department at 243-3551.
Highway 74, Cape Girardeau County, Mo.