Copper Thieves Leave Downtown Business Owners HOT | Crime

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Copper Thieves Leave Downtown Business Owners HOT
Copper Thieves Leave Downtown Business Owners HOT

PALATKA, FL- Over the course of the last few weeks there was a string of vandalisms/burglaries across the Downtown Palatka area. The thieves were only after one thing though, copper, and took their time taking only that, bringing the tools they needed to disassemble air-conditioning and refrigeration units and leaving business owners and residents in the area HOT.

Sometime late in the night September 21st or early in the morning the 22nd the copper thieves took their toll on The American Legion Bert Hodge Post 45. They disassembled two 5 ton air conditioning units, taking the copper from the inside and leaving the rest behind. They also stole all the copper gas lines that were used for heating and cooking at the Post according to Commander Chuck Frames.

The damage was costly, not only for repairs and replacement, but also the impact that this has on daily business is devastating as well being a non-for-profit organization. Chuck Frames stated the Post is small, with only 161 members [mainly elderly veterans], and can not afford the insurance that covers theft so they are dealing with the loss on their own.

The Post has been receiving help from the community with donations, but still have a stuffy situation on their hands. They are having a Luau Benefit on October 7th for Post Improvement , and are accepting donations at the Post as well. For more information on how you can help with their recovery can call the Post at (386) 328-6976.

Several other downtown businesses and residents were targeted by the same type of vandalisms last week. Some of the other places vandalized and stripped of copper include The Guide Post, Graphics II, and Massey’s Jewelry.

The businesses hurt by these crimes hung signs on their doors apologizing for the inconvenience, and ran fans to circulate some kind of air through their store fronts. Breakfast at the Legion was optimistic, but just TOO HOT for the elderly veterans to enjoy this ritual.

There crimes were happening very late at night and early in the morning throughout the week. Other unoccupied residents had their air conditioners stolen and vandalized as well.

The crimes started on September 10th with Ralph’s House of Flowers.  According to Tish Leary, “they hit us Saturday and waited a week then got the rest of the block.”

According to Leary they cut the lock on the gate and cut and removed the copper lines that lead to the flower refrigeration system. Some of the flowers made it and some did not. She also stated that she did not know there was anything wrong until she felt the difference in temperature. The thieves only got 6 feet of copper  for this location.

Approximately 3 years ago the price of scrap copper skyrocketed, instigating a string or robberies like these, not just here on the First Coast, but everywhere. Scrap copper, depending on it’s condition, can be worth up to more than $2.50 a pound. With scrap yards scattered throughout the area, thieves are tempted to cash in on by committing these crimes.

The local Police Department worked with First Coast Recycling [one of many local salvage yard] to apprehend a Georgia man you is suspected to have committed these crimes. The Palatka Police Department Identified the man they have in custody as 26 year old Jamar Jones. He is suspected to be involved in at least three of these vandalisms.

Officer Todd Bryant spotted Jones in the early hours of Saturday morning creeping slowly down back and side roads in the Downtown area. He stopped the suspect and Jones told the officer he was trying to avoid the red lights according to reports. After further investigation, Bryant discovered that Jones had a suspended drivers license and was also in possession of illegal drugs. When they searched his body and vehicle the police found air conditioner parts and tools. They also found copper and physical evidence that matched evidence from one or more of the other crime scenes.

The Downtown businesses are slowly recovering from their losses and picking up their pieces. Crimes like these put a damper on businesses that are already having a hard economical time. The signs in the windows Downtown now read “ Thank You For Catching The Thieves”, remaining optimistic moving forward as they repair their damages and find new ways to prevent being victim of these types of crimes again.

 

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