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At least $8,000 in copper stolen from downtown art center

POSTED: July 17, 2013 3:54 p.m.
NAT GURLEY/The Times

A muddy footprint and broken hanger are the only obvious physical evidence left by copper thieves who took all but two of the downspouts.

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A Gainesville nonprofit was recently the target of a copper theft, with at least $8,000 worth of the material taken from piping at the Quinlan Visual Arts Center.

“I can’t even begin to describe the way your heart sinks,” said Amanda McClure, the Quinlan’s executive director.

McClure made the discovery Tuesday morning, after she had walked outside to speak with one of the center’s program instructors.

“It was a fluke that I saw it,” she said. “I just happened to look down and see this rubber tubing laying there.” She then looked up to find the copper downspout missing.

Of the 13 copper downspouts, 11 were gone. Some of them were as long as 25 feet, McClure said.

She said that she could tell where the thief or thieves attempted to kick down one of the remaining pipes. A muddy footprint was left behind, but the police were unable to lift any prints, she said.

The theft was discovered and reported Tuesday, and is thought to have occurred within the Friday-Monday time frame, according to Gainesville police spokesman Cpl. Kevin Holbrook.

He said this is the first copper theft report in recent memory, though 2 Dog Restaurant co-owner Tina Roberts said copper garden art was taken from outside her business a week or so ago.

“It wasn’t that big,” she said. “(The garden art) is really thick copper tubing.”

She said the restaurant didn’t report the theft, but now some of the pieces in its garden are chained down.

Holbrook encouraged community members to report any incidents, big or small, as it helps police create a profile when investigating cases.

He called the theft at Quinlan “brazen” with the location being right on Green Street. There are currently no suspects, he said.

There’s not a lot of money to be made off the theft, either.

“Individuals will do a great deal of damage for pennies on the dollar,” Holbrook said. “We’ve seen it in air conditioning units. Individuals will simply destroy a few-thousand-dollar air conditioning unit to obtain, many times, less than $30 worth of cash that they’re going to receive for the wiring.”

McClure is speaking with an insurance company as well as gathering quotes on copper replacement. She is also considering using a less valuable material, though she noted the purpose behind having copper was that it would “never have to be replaced.”

She said that the initial estimate was $8,000, but she now expects that it could possibly be at least $10,000 if copper is used for the replacement. McClure said police told her the thief might get around $20 per stolen pipe, or $220.

There is a state law regulating scrap metal recycling companies, requiring them to register with local authorities and maintain thorough records of all transactions. McClure noted she had been in touch with a local scrap metal recycling company, and it is aware of the incident.

She called the theft “disheartening.”

“We work hard and we provide a lot of community benefits,” she said. “It’s disheartening that a member of our community would do this.”



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