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SALT LAKE COUNTY -- Police arrested three men accused of stealing hefty amounts of expensive metal from a Salt Lake County neighborhood early Thursday morning.
According to Unified police, the area near 1600 East and 3100 South has become a popular target for this kind of crime. Officers have had as many as 60 reports of metal theft from that neighborhood alone.
The thieves stole plates that run from the street to driveways so cars don't bottom out.
Tyler Nelson says he had a set of plates, which runs about $150, stolen about a week and half ago. He says since then, about every two nights the thieves would show up looking for more metal to steal.
Neighbors caught on and kept an eye out for anything that looked out of place.
"Everyone became more aware of it and tried to figure it out," said Nelson. "Slowly we found out what kind of car it was and called it in. The cops have probably had 20 to 30 calls during the last two weeks."
Rather than take the metal plates and book them into evidence, our officers thought it would be better to take them to their rightful owners.
–Lt. Don Hutson
Around 2 a.m. Thursday, someone spotted a suspicious vehicle. Officers responded and made a traffic stop.
Inside the vehicle, officers found three adult males and 15 metal ramps weighing down the back of the vehicle. Officers say they believe the men wanted to turn them in as scrap metal to make some money.
The three men were arrested, but officers first had a job for them to do.
"Rather than take the metal plates and book them into evidence, our officers thought it would be better to take them to their rightful owners," said Lt. Don Hutson with Unified police.
Tyler Nelson was thrilled. "Thankfully I was able to pick them out and they made the suspects put them back where they were, so it was good. It was really good," he said.
Police say Jose Alamos, Jorge Bahena and Rufino Hernandez will face theft charges. Officers also found metal grates from a nearby school in their vehicle.
An employee at Utah Metal Works says plates like that are worth about $30 to $40 each, depending on weight.