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Copper wire thieves hit Celebration Park; city restores power for soccer tournament

Celebration Park in Federal Way. - Andy Hobbs/Federal Way Mirror
Celebration Park in Federal Way.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/Federal Way Mirror

On Aug. 8, thieves broke into Celebration Park and stole a large quantity of copper wire from various installations in the park.

The Federal Way Police Department (FWPD) estimates the damage to be somewhere between $15,000 to $30,000. The incident marks the third time this summer that Celebration Park has been targeted for copper wire theft.

“Wire/copper theft is a regional problem, and just one or two thefts can significantly affect a business or city/county,” said police spokeswoman Cathy Schrock. “Such is the case in Federal Way.”

According to Schrock, copper wire theft is down from 2011, with 29 incidents reported in the city between January and August of this year, compared to 50 for the same timeframe last year. Celebration Park itself was previously targeted in June and July.

On June 3, there was another significant incident, which left much of the park in the dark because the copper wire was taken from the lighting installations scattered throughout the park.

The lighting systems for Fields 1 and 2 were completely wiped out, while the lighting systems for Fields 5 and 6 were reduced to about 50 percent of capacity. That incident resulted in estimated damages of $5,000 to $10,000.

Another attempt on Celebration Park was made July 26, but previously installed defenses kept the would-be thieves at bay.

One of the most difficult issues for law enforcement in dealing with this particular crime is that the resale laws for metals such as copper are much more relaxed than other similar crimes.

“Metal recyclers do not have any regulations to report to law enforcement, such as those in place with pawn shops,” Schrock said.

For the thieves, theft of this kind appears lucrative. According to the website for West Seattle Recycling, that facility pays out $2.55 to $2.70 per pound for what it terms “copper #1” and $2.45 to $2.55 per pound for “copper #2.”

That business breaks down copper wire into three categories: high grade, medium grade and low-grade. For high grade copper wire, they pay out $1.90 to $2 per pound, with the price per pound decreasing for each step below.

Another local metal recycling center that has facilities in Pacific and Puyallup, Commercial Metal Recycling, reports that for non-ferrous materials like copper wiring, their company only pays up to $30 in cash on site. Any additional money to be paid out is sent to the seller in the form of a check, according to the company’s website.

In Federal Way, every occurrence of copper wire theft is a headache.

“Any instance, whether on public or private property, causes disruption and costly repairs,” said city spokesperson Chris Carrel. “When theft strikes a public park like Celebration Park, it affects the park users as well as the entire community.”

City staff are hard pressed to get the damaged installations in Celebration Park repaired as soon as possible, Carrel said, because of a local soccer tournament scheduled for this weekend.

Parks staff restored power to two soccer fields by Thursday afternoon in time for the Blast Off Soccer Tournament games, Carrel said.

As always, the community is an important part in keeping crimes like this from happening.

“I’d encourage the public to call 911 if they see anything suspicious at Celebration or other parks. Wire thieves are challenging to catch because they hit their targets quickly and leave,” Carrel said. “If people see something at a park that doesn’t seem right, a phone call can help us put these thieves behind bars.”

 

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