Copper thieves strike South Knox library

Knoxville (WVLT) - A South Knox County library sits closed Monday night, and will stay that way until Tuesday, thanks to the hands of copper thieves. Workers at the Howard Pinkston branch on Martin Hill Pike found nearly all the air conditioners ransacked Monday morning. The copper inside...stolen. The Knox County Sheriff's office says it's not only a problem here in Knoxville, but all of East Tennessee.

The fans still least in one.

"It's terribly unfortunate," Mary Pom Claiborne says.

The same can't be said for the other four air conditioners at Knox County Library's Howard Pinkston Branch.

"Nothing good comes of theft," Claiborne continues.

The copper inside...ransacked by thieves over the weekend.

"It's a horrible thing," Claiborne says.

Horrible because with only one working AC unit...this reading hot spot's now too hot for reading at all.

"It's already 80 degrees and we'll take the library offline long enough to fix the air conditioning units," Claiborne says.

That's means at least until Tuesday.

"We've sustained about 15,000 dollars worth of damage," Claiborne continues.

"It's a problem all throughout the Southeast," Martha Dooley says.

The Knox County Sheriff's Office says copper theft's been a problem for the last couple of years.

"Thieves are hitting air conditioners, new housing projects, that sort of thing for the copper," Dooley continues.

Construction areas are also popular picks. And a spokesperson for the University of Tennessee says thieves also hit up campus buildings for copper twice in the last week.

"We see an increase when the copper prices go up. So it's been a supply and demand situation," Dooley says.

The sheriff's office says most of it ends up in a scrap yard...sold for three to four dollars a pound.

"It depends on what size it is. How easy it is to get to the place where the air conditioner is and how easy it is to extract the copper from it."

A theft...the sheriff's office says is made dangerous by the electricity involved.

"We've had cases of people getting hurt trying to steal the copper," Dooley says.

Librarians say the theft at this library hurts the summer readers...

"It's pretty bad," Claiborne says.

Because it'll most likely will be closed for several days.

The sheriff's office says it's working on ways to combat copper theft. And UT has stepped up on campus patrols. Library workers still encourage readers to come for the summer reading club when the library re-opens. There's still two weeks left.

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