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LVMPD works to attack copper wire thefts with new task force

<i>LVMPD/KVVU</i><br/>LVMPD works to attack copper wire thefts with new task force.
LVMPD works to attack copper wire thefts with new task force.

By Joe Vigil

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    LAS VEGAS, Nevada (KVVU) — Copper wire thieves have caused very expensive repairs for many valley businesses and taxpayers. FOX5 broke the story of copper wire thieves hitting highway lights at the Spaghetti Bowl. Most recently, we’ve reported how thieves hit highway lights on U.S. 95 near Boulder Highway.

While Spaghetti Bowl lights were repaired, the U.S. 95 lights have not, forcing people to drive in darker conditions there.

Thieves have hit plenty of Clark County street lights. The county says copper wire thieves have vandalized 95 locations around the valley.

“Clark County approached us, their Public Works. And they noticed a high volume of light poles that were getting hit and copper wire was being taken out of them. And therefore, you don’t have streetlights, or you don’t have operational, maybe, signals,” said Joshua Martinez, who is the Enterprise Area Command Captain for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

The captain says within the last couple of months LVMPD joined forces with Henderson and North Las Vegas police to form a copper wire theft task force. The three agencies are now sharing information about thefts. And the captain says the task force has already generated three suspect arrests, one being Brian Welch. The captain says the department can tie Welch to the copper wire theft of 87 streetlights, with more than $100,000 in repair costs. The captain says Welch tried to blend in while stealing copper wire during the day by wearing a construction hard hat and yellow traffic vest.

“So that anybody that was driving by on a daily basis would think this individual was out there doing some type of public works,” said Martinez.

Martinez says investigators were able to uncover more than 300 transactions of scrapping by Welch.

He says they also arrested two other suspects, Ruben Montejano and John Werns. The captain says they worked together to steal copper wire from cell phone towers, causing thousands of dollars in damage.

An arrest report indicates Werns completed 73 copper transactions between December 2021 and May 2022. The report says during that time he sold 6,652 pounds of copper wire for more than $23,000.

“There were identified through good police work on the streets. Our patrol officers went and saw something that was suspicious around a cell phone tower because we were briefing this out. And they were able to identify these individuals and passed that information on to our investigators. And we were able to follow up and find out that those folks also had a high number of transactions. And we were able to get them into custody and hold them accountable,” said Martinez.

He added, “You’re not going to have the free reign of victimizing the community to feed your addiction.”

People are urged to report any streetlights out so they can be repaired, as well as call the police if they see anything suspicious around streetlights or other infrastructure. The public is also asked to file a police report for a copper wire theft, even if it’s a year or two old. Many victims don’t file reports. Police say a report will help them identify possible trends, where trends might be happening and may help lead to suspects.

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