Police: Copper thieves pose as utility workers

Electricians say thieves cost business owners at least 10 times what they'll likely make from stolen copper

HOUSTON - Men dressed as utility workers used their truck to steal more than $1,000 in copper from a Houston-area strip mall, police said.

The crime happened around 6:30 p.m. Friday at a strip mall in the 8000 block of Westheimer.

Investigators said surveillance video caught the men driving up in a truck, attach a chain to some metal pipes and yank them from the wall.

They come back later to grab the copper wire exposed after the damage, investigators said.

Janet Chui owns a restaurant in the strip mall. It's one of the establishments that lost its power from the theft.

"I can't get my employees to work. I can't open up. I have to put notices, and I have to call these guys to come out here and fix everything," said Chui.

Electricians worked most of the day to repair the lines and restore power to the businesses. They said the thieves cost business owners at least 10 times the money the crooks will receive for selling the stolen copper.

"They probably made a thousand dollars off of it," said Alex Robb, an electrician. "It'll end up costing these people about $11,000 to replace what they got."

The work lasted well into Friday night. Chui said she knows the repairs will get her restaurant up and running again, but she's fearful for other owners.

"If you make it more inconvenient for them to do it next time, hopefully they won't do that again to us," Chui said. "But that doesn't mean it's going to stop them from doing it to somebody else."

Houston Police believe it took the thieves just over an hour to dismantle the pipe and get away with the copper they were after.

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