An investigation of suspicious activity in the Axolotl Lake area this past Wednesday evening led to the arrest of a 51-year-old male Bozeman resident in a developing copper theft case.
“Copper is expensive in terms of scrapping and is a problem nationwide,” Madison County Undersheriff Roger Thompson said. “People can recycle it and get cash for the scrap cost.”
Thompson said that recycling centers are very much aware of the problem and record the names of people who bring in large amounts of copper, but that awareness only goes so far. Copper thieves may also ship stolen copper out of state to avoid drawing attention locally.
The suspect allegedly stole some copper from a local business in Alder sometime between Monday and Wednesday. A couple of days later a phone call to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office helped reveal a place where some of the copper cable had been stashed. More copper cable was recovered over the weekend as the follow up continued.
“Copper thieves can sometimes be very brazen and take advantage of construction sites and copper used for power and phone in remote locations,” Thompson said.
Theft of copper from this specific business may have been going on for months preceding the reported theft on Wednesday. It was only then that people at the business noticed that a large amount of copper was missing.
The suspect turned out to be a registered sex offender in Gallatin County but was working and living in Madison County where he had failed to register. He also lived part time in Bozeman.
“Copper thefts are an ongoing problem in Montana. It is always satisfying to be able to recover the property and get it back to the owner. We have a lot of good people that travel through this county for work and recreation. We should always be aware of the possibility that few of them do not have Madison County’s residents’ best interests at heart,” Thompson said.
The suspect was booked in the Madison County jail for investigation of Theft and Fail to Register as a Sexual Offender. He appeared in Madison County Justice Court on Tuesday morning and is being charged in Madison County on both charges.
Thompson reminds people to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity immediately. He said that even if it turns out to be nothing illegal, it is better to be safe than sorry and allows for law enforcement to respond quicker and better.