Cellular towers, telephone lines, construction sites, vacant homes and electrical substations seem to be the criminal’s favorite targets. Without a doubt, the favorite "Hot Spot" in our community is air conditioning units; both residential and commercial.

"Current laws allow anyone with photo identification to take scrap metal to a salvage dealer and instantly receive cash with no questions asked," said Mike Davis, North Little Rock police chief. "Many criminals use this method while others take the metals to a third party who will conduct the transaction in order for them to avoid detection."

The North Little Rock Police Department currently obtains information on individuals exchanging scrap metal for cash and are focusing our attention on those doing so on a frequent basis, said Davis.

"It is extremely important for each of you, your coworkers and associates to be diligent in reporting all suspicious activity that might be observed," said Davis.

Anyone with copper at their location wanting an officer to visit can receive a free security check. They should contact the North Little Rock Patrol Division Administrative Office, Captain J. Kovach, at 771-7172 for assistance or by e-mail at jay.kovach@nlrpolice.org.

Companies across the state combat copper thefts on an ongoing basis.

"Besides being dangerous and illegal, copper theft hurts everybody," said Entergy Arkansas’ Blake Gore, a line supervisor out of Magnolia. "When thieves steal copper components from power lines and substations, lights go out. And if they don’t go out, at best, the system becomes unstable and must be repaired. Repairs are expensive, and those costs get passed along to all Entergy Arkansas customers."

Copper theft has been a significant problem nationwide for years. However, Gore said the cases really picked up in the last six months with more than 100 copper thefts reported in the area he’s responsible for, which includes Columbia, Miller, Lafayette, Ouachita and Nevada counties. Repairs already made have cost about $1 million, and more are needed

Besides being illegal and a nuisance, stealing copper can also be fatal. As recently as July 31, just across the Arkansas border in Pocola, Okla., a man was found dead at an electrical transfer box at a concrete mill. Police say the 38-year-old man and at least one accomplice were stealing copper when the man was electrocuted. Six years ago a man was electrocuted after climbing a ladder up a utility pole in Columbia County and cutting into live wires to steal copper, Gore said.

Entergy Arkansas intends to work with law enforcement to prosecute all copper theft cases to the fullest extent of the law, Gore said.