By Matthew Saunders
In the last month, Cal Poly Pomona’s Spadra Ranch, located on Pomona Boulevard, has had a rash of thefts.
Thieves have been stealing copper wire from the ranch, which is used by the College of Agriculture for growing crops, including barley for Innovation Brew Works and student research projects.
“The stealing of copper wire is a recent criminal activity that has been going on in the areas surrounding Cal Poly Pomona,” says University Police Sergeant Matthew Lynn. “The frequency of the crime usually happens in cycles. There have been seven reported cases in the past month.”
This is not the first time that Spadra Ranch has been the site of theft.
“There has been theft of aluminum and pipes in the past,” said Director of Farming Operations Dave Matias, who oversees Spadra Ranch. “We keep our gates are locked. We also monitor people that come on the property.
“In the earlier days, the gates were left open. Now we put a curfew on the gates. The ranch can only be accessed from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. We do have a student that lives on the ranch that keeps an eye out during the late hours of the night.”
The reason criminals steal copper wire is due to the fact that copper is a valuable commodity and has a high recycling value. Copper wiring can be used for anything from fiber optics to irrigation.
“The price of copper can range from 75 cents to $1.50 per pound,” said Maria Cuevas, A1 Upland Recycling supervisor.
Lynn said that the thefts create significant damage.
“Criminals, for the most part, break into electrical components such as air conditioners to steal copper wire,” said Lynn. “Once they break into the air conditioning units, they rip out as much wire as they can. This leaves businesses with the high cost of replacing the broken units.”
University Police has reported that copper wire theft has occurred in multiple spots around campus.
“The suspects at hand have not targeted a single location, but rather have been sporadically ripping out wire in the areas surrounding the campus,” said Lynn.
“There are also a handful of scrap metal recycling centers in Pomona where the suspects could hypothetically exchange the stolen wire for quick cash.”
There are about five recycling centers near CPP that do recycle materials such as copper wire and reimburses customers with cash.
“We are only allowed to take $20 of copper wire at a time for a single customer,” says Cuevas. “If the amount exceeds $20, we call the police and let them check out the wire. If the police says the wire is fine, we then can give the customer their money after three days.”
Copper theft not only affects businesses that have been raided by criminals, but also affects the public as well. Railroads, land lines, irrigations systems and more are easy targets for criminals that are looking to make a quick steal.
“We cannot disclose too much information about the recent thefts, as this is an ongoing investigation,” says Lynn. “What is happening within the campus is our main focus and priority. However, we are doing what we can to get to the bottom of this.”
University Police has yet to issue any suspect descriptions or leads to the public.
Matias said that the missing wire affects more than just the ranch itself.
“What students and the community need to realize, whether it be copper wire, sheet metal or fruit, whatever is on the ranch is ours,” says Matias. “Students have this mindset that they can take oranges and avocados since they pay tuition to the school. This couldn’t be any more farther from the truth. Students need to realize that this is stealing. It is the equivalent of going into a classroom and taking a laptop or book. The ranch needs to make a profit.”
Any individuals that have information pertaining to the ongoing case are urged to contact University Police.
Reynaldo Duenas / The Poly Post
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