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Cops getting to the bottom of Kelowna copper thefts

Copper thieves managed to get away with $10,000 of the increasingly precious metal this weekend, prompting Kelowna police to reiterate a message of caution to local business owners.

"We suggest that companies (that use copper) invest in high quality surveillance equipment…and any number of security measures," said Const. Kris Clark, the local Mounties' new media liaison officer.

In the most recent case copper power cable was stolen some time between Jan. 6 and Jan. 9,  from Pier Mac Sand and Gravel, in the 1700 Block of Quail Ridge Boulevard.

Police currently believe the cable was cut and dragged across the commercial property and loaded into a waiting pickup truck.

While the business owner will be on the hook for figuring out how to cover off their loss, copper theft is creating just as heavy a burden on local tax payers.

Thieves ripping wire from street-lamps and roadway lights left Kelowna's public purse  $160,000 lighter last budget year, as the city had to go about the business of replacement.

This year substituting stolen wire will add $80,000 to the budget, although that number could be inflated by May, when the document is set in stone.

"As the price for copper increases, copper theft has increased dramatically," reads the budget note.

Currently replacement costs are inevitable, but city staff also have their sights set on a means to nip copper wire snipping in the bud.

A sizeable investment in anti-theft lids, boxes and bolts for the city's 14,000-plus lights has been proposed, in hopes it will be the key to reducing copper theft.

"This project will be phased in over three years for a total project costs of approximately $900,000," reads the budget item.

Meantime, the province has introduced Bill 13, the Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act.

If passed, the act will make B.C. the first Canadian province with legislation targeting scrap-metal transactions.

Currently, few municipalities have bylaws that require scrap dealers to maintain records of copper and other high-value metals they purchase, and to share details daily with local police.

The new law is designed to help to deter and prosecute metal thieves, minimize regulatory costs for the recycling industry and protect the personal information of those who sell metal to scrap dealers.

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