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December 6, 2007

Copper rush in Rockport

ROCKPORT - Burl Ives may have sung about the value of silver and gold, but a thief in Rockport is more interested in the value of copper.

An approximately 70-foot long section of 1-inch copper piping was stolen from the side of Sandy Bay Yacht Club on T-Wharf earlier this week. The incident, reported to police Tuesday, is the latest in a string of copper-related crimes to strike the small seacoast town this fall.

No suspects have been identified and the case remains under investigation, Rockport police Chief Tom McCarthy said yesterday.

In addition to this week's theft, several 480-volt cables used to keep MBTA commuter trains warm at the Rockport train station during the overnight hours, have also been stolen in the past three months. Police believe the thief is after the copper contained inside the cables. Copper is the second best base-metal conductor - behind only silver - of electricity. It is known for its high heat transfer and uniform heating qualities.

So far, there have been no delays or other negative effects on train service as a result of the crime, MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said yesterday.

Pesaturo would not say how much each cable, or plug-in, is worth, but described them as "very big extension cords."

"They are very heavy, lengthy cables that are quite cumbersome to move," Pesaturo said. "We're discussing measures to better protect them. It's no secret throughout the state and country that copper theft is on the rise."

Detectives with the MBTA Transit Police, who were only aware of three incidents since September, were headed up to Rockport last night, he said. The MBTA confirmed there is at least one attendant working at the station during the overnight hours.

The cables are not kept at stations in Gloucester, West Gloucester or Manchester because the MBTA does not keep trains stored overnight in those other Cape Ann facilities.

Police said they believe the crimes are directly related to the current high price of copper, which was worth $2.99 a pound at the close of trading Tuesday, according to the American Metal Market.

"There is an on-going investigation by Rockport Police and MBTA Police," McCarthy said. "We have an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the MBTA and can enforce their laws if needed."

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