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Scrap metal buyer: 'We can compile quite a bit of evidence'

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JUNCTION CITY, Ore. - Crews labored in the summer swelter to restore phone service to customers in the wake of a wire theft near Junction City on Tuesday.

The wire disappeared at 5 a.m. Tuesday.

"Some people came by cut down one of our poles and dragged the cable down the road," said Jason Johannesen, CenturyLink area manager for Eugene.

Crews got service restored around 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Investigators said thieves stole about 600 feet of copper wire, now worth about $1,400 on the open market.

"It's been on the increase with the rise in cost of copper," Johannesen said.

A tip later led deputies to a secluded spot on public lands, where they found a man and the wire. The man now faces theft and other charges. <>><>><>> More on the arrest

Metal theft is a crime that has plagued Oregon, especially when prices are high.

"When the price is high it is a good incentive for a person to try to get something for nothing," said Andrew Jones with Burcham's Metals in Albany.

Burcham's Metals receives regular reports of metal theft - two on Tuesday alone.

Jones said high unemployment and drug use drive people to cash in on copper and other metals to the tune of $3 per pound.

"Anything suspicious we report to law enforcement within 24 hours," Jones said.

Burcham's works with the county sheriff and police to nab thieves under a set of rules set by the state in 2010.

Under Senate Bill 570, scrap yards must hold payment for three days, copy a seller's ID and photograph all materials for record keeping.

"We can compile quite a bit of evidence in case something is stolen," he said.

But Jones says the law can't catch everyone.

And he said the law may be an incentive for thieves to take stolen metals across state lines, making metal theft a nationwide problem that worsens as the economy flounders.

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