Metal thieves on the prowl again


Metal thefts are up again after such activities had seemed to drop off for a while, according to the Socorro County Sheriff’s Department.

Deputy Ed Sweeney said Justin Zamora was arraigned this week in Magistrate Court for his alleged theft of about 900 feet of telephone line from CenturyLink in December.

Blotters report the sheriff’s department took a report Dec. 19, 2012, from CenturyLink that about 400 feet of telephone line had been removed from poles on Tarryall Farm Road in San Antonio on Dec. 18. Two days later, CenturyLink reported another 500 feet of telephone line missing from poles on state Route 1 in Luis Lopez sometime between Dec. 18 and 20.

Sweeney said the Socorro Police Department got a call Jan. 8 from a city resident who saw someone loading a strange bundle into their vehicle. Concerned it could be a body or something, the person called it in, but police discovered it to be telephone wire with the coating burned off.

A CenturyLink employee was able to identify the wire. Sweeney explained wire makers put identifiers in wire so a company can differentiate the wire it uses from another company’s. When the wire was identified, the police asked the sheriff’s department if they had any missing wire in the county since none was reported missing in the city.

“It’s a very good example of cross agency cooperation,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney noted the cost to CenturyLink is way over and above the cost of the wire itself, but the thief did not make it to the scrap yard to pawn the wire.

“They were nabbed a wee bit before that,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney said the alleged thief was caught because someone had made a call after seeing something unusual — a big, wrapped bundle being hoisted into a vehicle.

“We appreciate it,” Sweeney said. “We always look for public input.”

Not only wire, but oxygen bottles have been stolen as well. Deputy William Armijo said Jan. 2 at 8:30 a.m., a San Antonio resident called in to report 13 oxygen bottles and a bicycle missing from his porch. The bottles are for medical purposes, and the man was very upset.

Deputy Kyle Haley, who took the report, said the man needs the bottles to breathe so he panicked when he woke up and found all of them missing. Haley explained the man stores the bottles outside because they work better when they are kept cool.

The bicycle stolen belongs to the man’s son or grandson.

“That’s actually how we got the guy,” Haley said. “I drove up and the bike was leaning against the trailer.”

Armijo said when the deputies asked the victim who might have stolen his bottles and bike, Darrin Hobbs’ name came up, so they went to Hobbs’ residence and saw the bicycle outside. Deputies photographed the bicycle and showed it to the victim, who identified it as the one stolen from his porch. Then Haley obtained a warrant to search for the oxygen bottles.

It was the first search warrant affidavit for Haley, who also took the report of the stolen CenturyLink wire. Haley came to work for the department this past autumn from New Mexico Tech, where he worked for Tech’s campus police for a few years. Haley has assisted with other warrants before, but this was the first he processed from beginning to end himself.

“It’s very nice for my first one to be successful,” Haley said.

Armijo said when Haley brought the warrant to Hobbs’ residence, the deputies recovered four oxygen bottles. They advised Hobbs they would be filing charges against him, although they did not take him into custody at that time.

Haley said the rest of the bottles were sold to Salome’s Recycling for about $10 — for all nine of them — although they are worth about $90 to $100 apiece. The deputies recovered all of the bottles the same day the San Antonio man reported them missing.

“It came together very quickly,” Haley said.


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