Victim of metal theft tracks down suspects himself

Victim of metal theft tracks down suspects himself

EUGENE, Ore. -- Rod Blomberg arrived at work Monday morning and found his livelihood torn to pieces.

So he found the guys who did it.

He hasn't found hope that catching the crooks will bring a halt to his headaches, however.

Burglars tore apart the machine shop at Blomberg's Astro Enterprises Research and Development overnight.

"They stole all the wiring out of the building," Blomberg said, "ripped all the machinery out, ripped all the wiring out of the machinery, and cut all the catalytic converters out."

The crooks were after scrap metal, a crime that is on the rise and victimizes almost anyone: motorists who find the catalytic converters removed from their parked cars, electric utilities targeted for spools of wire, and businesses like Astro Enterprises.

"It's probably going to get them $20 to $30," Ben Hall with the Eugene Police Department said of the break-in at Astro, "and they probably did $25,000 to $30,000 worth of damage to do it."

The crime concerns the Eugene Water and Electric Board, a victim of metal theft. The utility advocates for strengthening existing laws about scrap metal recycling.

"The metal recyclers would have to pay with a check and it would have to go to a specific address," explained Lance Robertson with EWEB. "So that cuts down on this stealing by folks who might be transients who are really just trying to get money for drugs or other kinds of things."

Business owner tracks down suspects

Metal theft plagues utilities like EWEB and businesses like Astro. This was the third time in four months that thieves broke into Astro.

This time, Blomberg fought back.

"I went to all the scrap yards, and then I talked to people and I came down here and walked through and there they were," he said.

Blomberg found four guys in a field behind a store. The men were stripping wires and breaking apart items to get at the copper wiring inside.

"I'm ready to kill 'em," Blomberg said of his discovery. "That's what I told the cops: if they don't get down here and do something, I'm going in there."

Police arrived and caught the thieves in the act.

"We stopped and detained one person in the process of stripping wire," said Hall with EPD. "Two other people who saw us coming ran off into the bushes."

Officers were using canine units to try and track three other suspects down.

"Basically they're taking it back here, breaking off all the plastic pieces and getting out all the metal pieces so they can sell them for scrap," Hall said. "They took every piece of the machine, every electrical component, and smashed it will a hammer to get the little pieces of copper out of it."

While police are still searching for the suspects, Blomberg wonders what good an arrest will mean at a time when Lane County's jail releases most non-violent offenders.

"These guys will be out today if they even go to jail," he said, "and it don't mean nothing to them because they'll go out and start doing it again."