West Palm Beach police feeling copper theft spike

Good samaritan's call stops active metal burglary

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - West Palm Beach police arrested two men on Monday accused of breaking into a grocery store and stealing copper metal.

The two alleged metal thieves, Chris Brothers and Jenaro Mason, were caught at the scene near 52nd Street and Broadway, after a nearby resident saw the suspects and called police.

"You think people do this when it's dark or something. Not in the middle of the morning in broad daylight," said Tammy Gloden, the witness.

Gloden said she thought it was odd to see the two men back their truck up to the store and start loading up ripped out appliances.

Investigators said had Gloden not been active and called the police, the suspects might have never been caught.

"Usually people don't want to get involved or they look the other way. I'm very surprised and very happy that they did that," said Anthony Luce, the owner of the store.

Luce said his store is in the process of being rebuilt and estimates the damages around $3000. The store was also burglarized a few days ago but police are unsure if Brothers and Mason are connected to that crime.

Detective Felix Leon said copper theft is a growing problem in the area. Leon said it is a combination of the tough economy, soaring metal prices and an excess of empty buildings. The detective said he has responded to 20 metal thefts already in the month of March.

"They'll keep doing it until they spend a lengthy time in jail," said Leon.

The state legislature just passed a new bill that would make certain metal thefts a felony. If someone knowingly buys or ignores certain metal buying safeguards, that person could also face a felony under the bill.
Governor Rick Scott is expected to sign the bill into law.

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