Copper theft sentence decried

August 2, 2006 10:08 am 2 comments

A 35-year-old man was sentenced to a year in prison plus five years probation on Monday for stealing over $200,000 in copper wiring from his employer, a sentence that city prosecutors say is too lenient as metal thefts in Hawaii and across the nation are skyrocketing. Shane Boyle had worked for Graybar Electrical Co., where he redirected over 50 tons of new copper wiring to recyclers for about $90,000. Prosecutors were pushing for the maximum 10-year prison term, as Boyle’s case came to trial in the midst of record metal prices, and countless metal thefts. Boyle’s former boss, Dave Pysher, lost his job due to the thefts, and he told KITV that Boyle’s sentence “sends a terrible message.” He said now thieves know “that the courts will not take the theft of copper seriously.” Nearly two dozen cases have been reported in Hawaii recent months, including some high profile and brazen thefts.

In April, thieves stole a mile of wiring from about 70 streetlights on the H-2 freeway, the second time the wiring had been targeted. The wiring had already been replaced once before at a cost of about $50,000, but now that stretch of the freeway will remain dark until the state can figure out how to secure it yet keep it accessible for maintenance and emergencies.

In May, a man was caught ripping copper roofing off a city building on Kapahulu Avenue.

Thieves also haven’t been shy in ripping rain gutters off school buildings, churches, and government buildings — including Ali’iolani Hale, home of the Hawaii State Supreme Court. Air conditioners, fire hydrants, and even graveyard vases have not been spared. Often the thefts occur in broad daylight, with passers-by not realizing a crime is being committed.

Global demand for copper and other metals is at an all-time high, attributed largely to explosive growth in China, and metal thefts have been rising across the U.S., and in other countries.


  • Det. Geoff Ashworth

    I am a Detective in Springfield, OH and take as receive as many as 2-5 reports daily on copper and aluminum thefts. We recently discovered an old law in our city ordinances which requires all scrapyards to take an ID and record this information as well as the vehicle description, plate number off the vehicle, and a description of the property that is being sold to the yards. This information is required to be sent to the police department every business day. It is a condition of their licensing. We have been doing this now for about a month and have seen great results from it so far. I firmly believe that total cooperation between the scrapyards and the police department is the key. I have had scrapyards call me because they were suspicious of a sale and then discover an unreported crime that resulted in felony arrests. Some of the proactive approaches I have taken is to advise business owners as well as private citizens to install loud audible alarms on their properties. Marking their copper pipes with certain colors of paint for identification purposes. But, through it all, it is still a huge problem. I have had some suspects tell me in interviews they believed it to be a “victimless” act because most of the places that are hit are vacant properties. When you consider the “ripple-effect” it has on the community, it is a large scale problem. Stealing $50.00 worth of copper may require a landlord to put out triple that amount to replace it when you factor in costs, labor, and down time.
    I hope someone comes up with an idea to track and apprehend the thieves.

    Det. Geoff Ashworth
    Springfield, OH
    Springfield Police Department
    Crimes Against Property Unit

  • Hello,
    I am writing a criminal law final paper. I am surfing the web for ideas when I came across your article that was attached in a Hawaiian newspaper article.
    It caught my eye because Northern Vermont had the same problem about copper thieves.
    Vermont did catch a person, and I have not heard about more incidents, possibly because his picture was put all over the news…little shy I guess.
    Thanks again for the blogg.

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