Island Crime Beat: Police warn of new copper thefts

The Kaua‘i Police Department’s alert last week regarding a new rash of copper thieving came with a message to safeguard valuables.

Hanapepe Stadium is the latest theft, where $2,000 in copper wire stolen from a storage shed, followed the same day by $8,000 in copper wiring stolen from the old Kekaha Sugar Mill.

A local Kaua‘i recycling company said the current rate for high-grade “clean” copper (shiny wiring and pipes without welding) is $2.50 per pound. The standard grade is $2 per pound and low-grade copper is being accepted for $1.75 a pound.

This price has been current for nearly five months, said the worker, who did not wish to be identified. Right now, the market is flooded and it may rise once there is a higher demand.

The employee said that without a notarized statement of ownership or legal transfer, the recylcer may not accept the copper in the state and must report the attempted sale to police.

Ideally, knowing the customer is the best way to prevent the acceptance of stolen copper, said the employee. Otherwise there is no real way to know if the metals are stolen unless they are caught in the act of the theft.

The Hawai‘i State Legislature passed a copper redemption bill that took effect in July. It requires every scrap dealer in the state to obtain a written statement signed by the seller certifying that the seller has the lawful right to sell and dispose of the scrap.

This statement must contain the seller’s name, business or residential address. Occupation, description of copper to include serial numbers or other identifying marks, and if practical the transaction information and license number of a vehicle used to deliver the scrap.

The law requires a copy of any receipt to indicate the source of copper, who issued the receipt, date of sale and price, If a receipt is not available, the seller must provide a notarized declaration to describe the item, who sold or transferred it to the seller, the date of sale and price.

If the seller does not provide a copy of the receipt or the notarized declaration as required, the scrap dealer may not legally purchase the copper, or beer keg, in whole or in part, and are required to report the attempted sale to the police.

Dealers are also required to photograph scrap copper and beer keg purchases, and verify the seller’s identity with government identification card or licenses.

The Coalition Against Copper Theft, an advocacy group of trade associations in Washington, D.C., states that a conservative estimate by the Department of Energy is that copper wire theft costs the nation almost $1 billion per year.

Greed and possibility of easy money is one factor, but the organization says that the human cost is critical as people are getting hurt or killed by methamphetamine addicts when they are discovered breaking into homes and businesses. They sell copper to maintain their addiction, the Coalition noted.

Insurers are informing consumers of the risks to their HVAC systems, copper coils from air conditioning units, wiring and piping in unsecured buildings, homes and construction sites. Tips include arranging delivery of copper materials, components, and equipment just prior to installation to avoid storage time.

When necessary, storage of copper materials should be in secured buildings, storage containers, or wire cages. Insurers recommend an effective inventory management system to identify, measure, and track copper materials and parts using identification marks and recording serial numbers.

There were at least seven arrests for copper-related thefts between June and September alone. Three cases went on to criminal prosecution in 5th Circuit Court.

• Charlston G. Simao-Pimental, 20, of Kekaha, was arrested Aug. 15, 2012, for theft of copper from the Kekaha Agricultural Association. He was indicted and pleaded guilty on Dec. 11, and is awaiting sentencing and a request for deferred sentence on March 14 in 5th Circuit Court.

• Steven Nahele Simao, 34, of Hanapepe, and Simao-Pimental’s co-defendant, has a jury trial scheduled for Jan. 28.

• Warren Alan Kobayashi, 67, of Kapa‘a, was indicted for second-degree criminal trespass and theft of copper from the Coco Palms Hotel site on Dec. 3, 2011. He has a jury trial scheduled for Jan. 22.

• Island Crime Beat is a weekly column that reflects on the current events and issues regarding the police, courts and criminal justice system of Kaua‘i.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.