Copper theft squad nabs 5

A rise in the price lures scrappers. Hot on their trail: police.

Published May 23, 2007

TAMPA - A police crackdown on copper thefts has landed five people in custody after detectives made arrests in two separate cases Monday night.

In one case, police said they found a 1-year-old child in the getaway car being driven by the infant's mother.

Bay area law enforcement agencies set up a task force six months ago to share information about copper thefts, which have been on the rise as the cost of construction materials increases, said Tampa police Sgt. Jim Contento, a task force member.

"Scrappers are hitting everything," Contento said Tuesday. "It's a big problem, especially in rural areas."

Thieves are desperate for the copper, which usually retails between $2.65 and $2.90 per pound, Contento said. They take it to scrap yards, hoping to make a quick buck, he said. Common places burglars steal the copper include home air conditioning units and grounding wire used for cell phone towers.

Construction sites are frequent targets, Contento said.

Just before midnight Monday, members of the Tampa Police Department's Squad 332, responding to a call about a suspicious car at 4610 N Central Ave., arrested four.

Officers identified April Renee Ellison, 24, of 12708 N 19th St., Apt. 802, Tampa, as the driver. She was charged with burglary of a structure, two counts of criminal mischief, possession of burglary tools, grand theft and aggravated child abuse for having her 1-year-old child with her during the heist.

Travis Trayun Jupiter, 21, of 12708 N 19th St., Apt. 702, Tampa, and John Robert Moore, 24, of 3303 E Comanche Ave., Tampa, each face charges of burglary, criminal mischief, grand theft, possession of burglary tools and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The fourth person arrested with the group was a 13-year-old Tampa teen who was taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center.

About 9:30 p.m. Monday, police said they found Gino Denoid Copeland, 38, of 6315 Canopy Tree Drive, Tampa, stealing copper wires from a construction site at 1120 E Kennedy Blvd. Copeland was charged with trespassing on a construction site, grand theft and robbery with a firearm or deadly weapon and was being held at the Hillsborough County jail.