Metal thieves who are caught stripping copper wires illegally should face stiffer penalties and stricter law enforcement, said one Port Coquitlam businessman.
Remi Coupal, the co-owner of Coupal Climbing Cranes in PoCo, said they were plagued with metal thefts between June and September 2011.
"(These thieves) are coming over the fence and they were beating the guard dogs with clubs or they poisoned them," said Coupal. "It got to the point where the dogs would aggressively bark at them but wouldn't get close to them."
Coupal's business suffered five to six metal thefts over a four-month period. The thieves, who Coupal speculates are part of the same group targeting the store, made off with several feet of copper wires stripped from the tower cranes in the company's storage yard.
He couldn't estimate the amount of metal that was stolen, but the damage done to the cranes were in the thousands, he said, adding that when cranes are stripped of their wire, they are unusable and can take any where from a few weeks to months to repair.
Since then, the company has beefed up its security considerably by installing new cameras that cover the entire three acres of property, increased lighting for better visibility and added drive-by security. Coupal is also able to download a live feed to his iPad and monitor his yard from home.
"It's come at a great expense, but I didn't have a choice," Coupal said, noting that many of his neighbours have also encountered similar problems.
Metal theft has become a lucrative business in the Lower Mainland recently due to a huge demand from overseas market such a China for second-hand metals.
Most recently in the TriCities, Coquitlam RCMP arrested a trio of women for allegedly attempting to steal wire and break into a vehicle on United Boulevard in late March.
No copper metal thefts have occurred at Coupal Climbing cranes recently. But Coupal believes summer is the prime time for businesses to be hit.
"This is going to be the peak time, between now and the fall, if I'm going to have problems, it's going to be now," he said, noting that he believes metal thieves work in the warmer seasons.
While no one has been caught on his property, Coupal hopes police will crack down on them when they are caught.
"On occasion when they have enough evidence to convict, the punishments have to be greater," he said. "There have been no consequences or punishment for the metal dealers buying the material.
"Lock them up so that they don't continue. The longer they're in jail, the less victims we will have."
He also hopes the provincial government will pass tougher legislation to deter dealers from purchasing stolen metals.
According to Cpl. Jamie Chung with the Coquitlam RCMP, metal thieves are not necessarily difficult to catch, but they do need public assistance to apprehend them.
"We know that these businesses are doing what they can to prevent this from happening and we understand their frustrations. Don't stop calling us - if you see something you have to say something and that's how you prevent future crime from happening," said Chung.
If caught, thieves could be charged with break and enter and theft, and break and enter and mischief, depending on the amount of damage they've done to the business.
More serious charges include break and enter and mischief over $5,000 or possession of stolen property.