Victoria Police have arrested six people allegedly involved in an organised crime syndicate responsible for over 50 large-scale copper thefts.
The thefts are estimated to have cost in excess of $780,000 across Melbourne’s northern suburbs.
North West Metro Regional Crime Squad, Detective Inspector Patrick Watkinson, said in a statement:
“Some may think that this is a victimless crime – but the impact of large-scale copper theft is serious. Not only does it significantly damage critical infrastructure, it also causes undue distress and disruption to the community through the loss of internet and power services, or disruptions to transport networks.”
Detectives from the North West Metro Regional Crime Squad have been investigating at least 50 of the alleged incidents of copper thefts in Melbourne’s northern suburbs between January and June this year.
Police seized an estimated $95,000 worth of copper as part of a series of warrants executed late last week.
It’s alleged that the offenders used portable power tools to cut through cabling at telecommunications pits to steal large quantities of copper.
The thefts are reported to have caused significant damage to infrastructure as well as causing undue distress to the community through disruptions to internet and power services.
Detective Inspector Watkinson said they police are “confident that the arrests made by the North West Metro Regional Crime Squad will make an impact into this type of offending across metropolitan Melbourne.”
Detectives from the North West Metro Regional Crime Squad along with members from the Mill Park Divisional Response Unit conducted a series of search warrants on Thursday and Friday in Bundalong, Bundoora, Cottles Bridge, Reservoir and Eltham.
The six people arrested include:
• 43-year-old Bundoora man charged with the theft of $215,000 worth of copper cabling and criminal damage to the value of $30,000 to telecommunication footpath pits. He has been bailed to appear at the Wangaratta Magistrates’ Court on 21 September.
• 31-year-old Bundoora woman charged with theft. She has been bailed to appear at the Heidelberg Magistrates’ Court on 22 November.
• 39-year-old Eltham man charged with possession of methyl amphetamine and is expected to be charged on summons in relation to theft of copper. He has been bailed to appear at the Heidelberg Magistrates’ Court on 22 November.
• 58-year-old Cottles Bridge man charged with handle stolen goods. He has been bailed to appear at the Heidelberg Magistrates’ Court on 23 November.
• A 34-year-old Glenroy man and a 31-year-old Reservoir man were also arrested and released pending further enquiries.
The theft of copper causes significant damage to critical infrastructure, impacting telecommunication networks, public transport signalling and power supply.
Detective Inspector Watkinson added:
“Our message to anyone thinking of stealing copper to make a quick dollar is simply don’t; we have a number of methods allowing us to disrupt this offending as well as enabling us to identify and track down those involved.”
Anyone who has information about criminal activity is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or make a report online at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au