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.