Copper wire thieves hit vacant Sanger supermarket

SANGER, Calif.

Police say this crime may have gone unreported for an entire month because the damage isn't immediately vi sable to those passing by. But if you get close, you can see the mess left behind.

From the street, the former sAve Mart looks like any other empty building. But inside, police are investigating a crime that has cost its owners thousands.

Owners tell police damage is estimated at several hundred thousand dollars. Not just because of the missing copper wire, but the cost they face to repair the damage.

Police say it appears to be a crime of opportunity. "It is a part of a shopping center is occupied but there are parts of the building that aren't necessarily viewed on a day to day basis by high traffic," said Corporal Jaimy Gaines with the Sanger Police Department.

The Sanger store is one of two former Valley Save Marts hit by thieves. Another former Save Mart in Merced was targeted on Friday afternoon. Police arrested Allen Suther near the scene, but say two other suspects got away...

Now, police in Sanger are working to see if the two cases related. "It's kinda ironic if it's not because they are both Save Marts that have been closed down in the recent past. So it may be something that is related or it just may be an unfortunate coincidence."

While these two cases may seem unique because of the building's former lives, commercial and industrial real estate brokers say the theft has been a problem for the past several years. They say building owners are constantly dealing with vandals once the properties go dark. And once the buildings get new owners, just getting the lights back on can cost up to a half a million dollars.

There was an alarm system inside the former Save Mart in Sanger, but its unknown if it was working at the time of the theft. Real estate brokers say they often advise their clients to hire security once their buildings become vacant, but it can be a tough sell as buildings sit empty.

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