Copper Thieves Target High School Athletic Complex

CHESAPEAKE, Ohio (WSAZ) -- An estimated $40,000 worth of copper was stolen from the brand new athletic complex at Chesapeake High School.

A contractor noticed on Thursday there was a little copper missing. By Saturday morning the building, that will house a concession stand, rest rooms and a visitors locker room, was stripped of copper piping.

The new complex, a $3.2 million facility, was on track to be complete in February. Contractors say they were already behind because of weather, and now this will also set them back.

Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless says thieves are able to quickly resell the copper to scrap yards by making it appear old. That way no suspicion is raised when it's taken to be traded in.

In addition to copper, tools were also taken from the site. Lawless says they are looking at the pawn shop databases to see if they can track down who took the items.

In the meantime, Chris Hutchinson, whose company Now Service Pro is doing the plumbing, says they will need a month to recover from the damage that was done to the building.

"It's a school, for kids, can you imagine, how sad that is?" Hutchinson explained.

In addition to cutting the pipes from the wall, Hutchinson says they dropped cinder blocks on other pipes, from the ceiling, just to cause even more damage.

Hutchinson, who has had more than $170,000 in copper stolen from his company, says Lawrence County Sheriff's deputies have been stopping in to check and make sure his crews at the complex are actually supposed to be there.

The Sheriff and the school administration are working closely in this investigation, looking at surveillance video trying to track down the thieves.

"We are going to do everything in our power to work through our insurance company first and some preventative measures to make sure this doesn't happen again," explained Chesapeake Superintendent Jerry McConnell.

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