By Jeff Lehr
Police believe they have solved a number of recent thefts of copper pipes and condensers from air-conditioning units on the rooftops of commercial properties in Joplin with the arrest of a suspect over the weekend.
Lt. Darren Gallup of the Joplin Police Department said Samuel D. Shira, 41, of Joplin, was caught in the act of dismantling air conditioners on the roof of a business in the North Point Shopping Center between Seventh and Fourth streets off Range Line Road.
Gallup said an officer on patrol about 4 a.m. Saturday noticed a truck parked behind the shopping center that had been observed in the vicinity of a previous theft. Shira was stopped returning to the truck a short time later. He is accused of dismantling rooftop units belonging to Office Max, Party City and Ross Dress for Less.
The Jasper County prosecutor’s office has filed single felony counts of theft and property damage against Shira. Other charges may be brought as the investigation into his alleged involvement in a spate of recent thefts of piping and condensers from air-conditioning units continues, police said.
Shira allegedly admitted to four similar thefts in recent months from KODE-TV’s old station at 1928 W. Junge Blvd., from Hyspeco at 2011 W. Fourth St. and from AT&T’s maintenance garage at 1012 W. Fourth St. But the extent of the thefts may not end there, police said.
“We have up to 19 we think he may be responsible for,” Gallup said. “But those seven we know for sure.”
He said the suspect has been cutting pipes and removing condensers from the units because of their copper content and then selling the copper at various metal recycling businesses in the Joplin area. The thefts the suspect has acknowledged date back as far as Sept. 17 and entail estimated property loss and damage in excess of $235,000, he said.
“The victims will have to replace those units,” Gallup said. “They cost $10,000 to $15,000 apiece, some up to $20,000.”
SAMUEL SHIRA remained in custody Tuesday at the Joplin City Jail, charged with stealing copper from air-conditioning units on the roofs of commercial properties in the city. His bond is set at $10,000.