Missoula recycling companies watch for stolen scrap metal


MISSOULA, Mont. - An attempted copper wire theft and second incident of stolen scrap metal have recycling companies keeping an eye out.

Over the weekend Missoula Police arrested Veronica Donnelly and Earl John from Kent, Wash. Prosecutors say the two used bolt cutters to break into the old Kmart building on Brooks Street and that the two planned to steal copper wire and likely sell it to the scrap market.

The Missoula County Sheriff's Department also had a reported theft of scrap metal. That suspect is still at large. A local plumber called MCSD to report bins full of leftover brass and copper pipes had been taken from his property.

And it turns out local law enforcement officials aren't the only ones keeping an eye out for the stolen scraps.

Missoula's Pacific Recycling Manager Mason Mikkola said copper wire is one of the most expensive things he takes in; he pays customers about $2 a pound for the wire. It's also one tied to a lot of crime.

"When people can go out and turn stuff for quick cash that's where the criminal activity is, that's where you're going to find it," said Mikkola.

Bins filled with copper wire, brass piping and insulated wiring stay locked inside the building and monitored by security cameras. But the cameras are there to keep an eye on customers too.

"If we end up with something that's stolen and we can identify it, we will capture that on our security camera and give to the authorities," said Mikkola.

In addition Mikkola said his employees ask people who are trading in more than $50 worth of metal for some extra information including a copy of their driver's license, vehicle information, and license plate number.

Pacific Recycling also stays in close contact with local law enforcement so they can be on the lookout for customers trying to make some money off stolen scrap.

"Some of our best customers are the ones that are getting their materials stolen. So we certainly want to work with law enforcement so we can catch the criminals," said Mikkola.