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COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — You don't need to be a police investigator to know a gaping hole at the bottom of a chain link fence just doesn't seem right.
So when the owners of the Old Mill building in Cottonwood Heights saw the blow-torched hole, they knew someone broke onto their property. But they didn’t know how much damage was done until they went inside the building.
“They feel that they have lost $20,000 to $25,000 in copper wiring, and the damage to the doors. They will have to go back up there and re-weld plates back onto the doors,” said Cottonwood Heights Police Sgt. Mark Askerlund.
The building was built in the late 1800s and used as a paper mill until a fire eventually shut it down. It's been vacant for decades, even though every once in a while, someone gets in to tell ghost stories. But nothing has ever happened like this.
The regular electricians we see, we know they should have that kind of stuff or it's OK that they have that. But there is some stuff that appears out of place and we just hope we can pick that up.
–- Mark Lewon, Utah Metal Works
"We don't have any leads to go on at this time. We'll obviously check with the salvage yards and those types of things," Askerlund said.
Police suspect that whoever stole the copper may try to sell it at a salvage yard. In the past few years, however, workers at these types of yards have been closely watching for unusual items.
"There's some stuff where we have been successful on,” said Mark Lewon, the vice president of operations at Utah Metal Works in Salt Lake City. “The last two or three years have been real good for us because of those relationships with police. They know who we are, they know who to call on our end, and we know who to call on their end.”
Lewon says it's important for all scrap yards to work with police to try to keep these sorts of crimes from happening. The thinking goes: If thieves can't sell it, they won't steal it.
“The regular electricians we see, we know they should have that kind of stuff or it's OK that they have that,” said Lewon. “But there is some stuff that appears out of place and we just hope we can pick that up."
Investigators say they don’t have a lot to go on with this latest case of copper theft. They’re hoping someone hears something and gives them a call.
"The thing that always seems to surprise me is if you're going to work that hard to commit a crime, why not go out and work that hard at a legitimate job?" Askerlund said.