Metal thefts increasing in eastern Kentucky

By: Marcus Conroy Email
By: Marcus Conroy Email

Metal thefts are becoming a common problem in the mountains.

Police in Letcher and Perry Counties say there are two main reasons: the economy, and drugs.

The chicken is still sizzling at Las Penas Restaurant in Whitesburg. Even though the vent above it is missing a metal piece, which police say was stolen in broad daylight.

However, the Mexican restaurant is only one of many businesses and homes in eastern Kentucky that have been hit by metal thieves.

"Concerning metal, aluminum or metal type steel that people may have lying around their property," Hazard Police Captain Minor Allen said.

Captain Allen says the everything from power meter covers to man holes have been stolen in the city. He says the thieves often break up the pieces, which are then sold to scrap yards.

WYMT talked to one scrap yard owner who would not go on camera. He says they try to monitor all activity but police acknowledge it is hard to track everything.

The operator says the price of copper, tin, steel, and even bodies of cars have increased. He says that ten years ago, a pick-up truck would have only gone for $100. Now, it can be scrapped for as $300.

"There's even been like tractor trailers, coal trucks, that have been stolen for scrap," said Letcher County Sheriff's Lieutenant Brain Damron.

The operator says he works closely with law enforcement, and reports suspicious loads to police. Damron believes it comes down to the economy, and a problem that is plaguing Appalachia.

"It's pretty much what we believe to be drug-related. People needing money so they can make drug purchases," said Damron.

Captain Allen with Hazard Police says everyone with any metal items should keep them inside or out of sight. Police are also asking people to report any suspicious activity.

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