CREATED Apr 11, 2012
Reporter: Kevin Keen
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - It’s a common crime costing Southern Arizona homeowners, businesses and taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages every year. The culprits often get away scot free and move on the next victims. But that wasn't the case for two men Monday night.
The crooks crept along behind a vacant east side shopping center near Broadway and Wilmot. Under the cover of midnight, they went to work, cutting the security fence, cracking open electrical boxes and conduits, and ripping out copper wiring.
That is, until their cover was blown.
“This was a citizen who was alert and noticed that something wasn't right and called us,” Lt. Decio Hopffer told 9 On Your Side.
Tucson police moved in, practically catching the thieves red-handed.
“What about the circumstances made it clear that they were the culprits?” reporter Kevin Keen asked the lieutenant. “It was pretty obvious based on what they had in the trucks,” Hopffer replied, explaining there were several hundred pounds of insulated copper wiring inside.
Officers arrested 39-year-old Sean Heinemann and 33-year-old Thomas Boscia for burglary and having burglary tools like pry bars and wire insulation strippers.
TPD said catching copper thieves in the act is rare. The crime is very common, but it's difficult to witness and link suspects with what could be stolen copper or just wires and piping someone legitimately owns.
The department said officers are now receiving special training so they can recognize what could be stolen copper wiring, as well as the tools used to extract it. The hope is they'll be able to identify these crimes and catch crooks.
In this case, the department credits that concerned citizen who picked up the phone.
“We can't do that alone,” Hopffer said. “Without their help, we won't be able to catch these folks in the act. They can be our eyes and ears.”
If you see suspicious activity at a vacant home, business or elsewhere, police ask you call 9-1-1.