FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --Fresno police said copper wire thieves are preying on schools and stealing thousands of dollars of valuable material. In the last month three Central Unified schools have been targeted. The copper wire theft shut down the schools' computers and phone systems.
Central Unified's security got to the school just in time to scare the thieves away. In total more than $16,000 in copper wire was stolen, and officers are still looking for the suspects.
It's the third time in less than a month that Central Unified School District has been the target of copper wire theft. Back in early March the district's offices were hit causing a major disruption to phone systems and bringing all online systems down. The damage was in the tens of thousands, as the thieves used a jackhammer to break through a cement block to get to the copper wire. Then, this past weekend, electrical lock boxes at McKinley Elementary School were broken into.
"Two of them on the library, and one on a nearby classroom. They stole in total about 500 feet of copper wire and they're estimating that at a value of $6,000," said Lt. Joe Gomez, Fresno Police Department.
Administrators said the damage goes beyond just replacing the copper wire. It shuts down the schools' systems.
"Obviously, it's something that's taken a lot of staff time-- it's taken a lot of revenue from the district that should be going to kids," said Mark Sutton, Superintendent.
And then early Sunday morning another disappointing blow. An alarm at Riverbluff Elementary School sent security officers over to the school at 3:00 a.m. They were able to get there before any of the copper wire was actually stolen.
"We've increased security, we have positioned cameras on sites the best we can, and hopefully to catch these individuals but they're kind of in random locations," said Sutton.
Central Unified is offering a $1,000 reward for a tip that would lead to an arrest of the people responsible for the copper wire thefts.