HAZARD — As metal thefts continue to become a problem across the region, some thieves have begun posing a dangerous and costly threat to Perry Countians.
Last week, Perry County police officer Brad Stidham received a report that a culvert by a road in the Flat Gap community had been cut and sold in small pieces. He said that it appeared it had been cut in several places, and possibly over a long period of time.
While a culvert theft is not something officials have seen before, it is something they fear seeing more and more often.
“I expect it to happen a lot more,” said Stidham. “I think it has happened, like with this one, the location was 50 feet over the hill and you can’t even see it unless you get out and look over the head of the hill.”
Stidham said that while the high price of scrap metal can be a positive in terms of cleaning up the environment because it has resulted in people scouring creek banks and other areas for stray pieces of metal, but it has become a big problem in terms of crime.
“The price of metal is actually a good thing for getting the creeks and things clean, but at the same time it is causing a lot of thefts,” said Stidham.
He mentioned an incident that happened several months ago where someone had a Hazard city police officer’s personal vehicle towed from his home to a scrap yard. This thief would have only gotten a few hundred dollars for the metal in the car that was worth much more.
Stidham said that like this car theft, the culvert was difficult metal to scrap and required being cut with specialized tools.
“That is probably between half an inch to an inch thick, too,” said Stidham, adding that in order to disguise where the metal had come from, they suspect that it was cut in to small pieces that may only be worth a few dollars each.
“The amount of work they put into stealing, they could get a regular paying job and make more money and not work nearly as hard,” said Stidham, adding that it probably took the thief several hours for each piece, and possibly days or weeks to get as much metal as they cut. He said this is often the case with metal theft, yet it does not seem to be slowing down or stopping. “I think it probably happens a lot more than we even know.”
They have not yet made an arrest in this case, although they do have several suspects in mind, he added.