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Selling scrap gets thieves in a scrape

By Shavonne Potts
spotts@salisburypost.com
In a given day, hundreds of people turn in their scrap metal to sell at Holmes Iron and Metal Inc. in East Spencer. Recently, one of those sales turned up stolen metal from a Salisbury church.
Someone stole 74 pounds of copper guttering from First Baptist Church located at N. Fulton Street some time between Friday and Tuesday.
The metal shop owner, Douglas Holmes, confirmed someone came to his business to sell red brass plates, not copper.
“It looks like copper,” Holmes said.
The plates, he said, had holes drilled in them and appeared to be left from a construction project.
“It had no markings, just screw holes in it,” he said.
His staff didn’t know the metal was stolen until Salisbury Police investigators began asking about the purchase.
Holmes said the man who brought the metal in is a regular customer.
He said he requires his employees to obtain photo identification of anyone who intends to sell scrap metal.
People bring in cans and all sorts of things to sell, he said.
“We try to know where we got it from. If we purchased it, we pretty much can find those people,” he said.
Holmes, whose business has been in East Spencer for more than 35 years, is aware of the increasing theft of copper and other metals.
He said his company stays away from anything with specific identifying markings, such as graveyard material plaques and fire department connections, both of which have been stolen recently.
“We certainly try our best to curb this. We certainly don’t want to have a bad name. We want to be able to continue to function here,” Holmes said.
He said his company tries to work with local authorities in recovering stolen items they might’ve purchased.
If something looks suspicious, “we don’t buy it,” Holmes said.
His shop usually sees about 100-150 customers a day.
“We have people unloading material, and we are doing our best to serve everybody quickly,” Holmes said.
He hopes the business’ video cameras will also deter people from selling stolen merchandise.
“This market has never seen these kind of prices before. People right now are doing whatever they can to survive,” he said.
He said the person who sold the metal likely received $1.50 to $1.80 a pound.
Salisbury Police Chief Mark Wilhelm said no arrests have been made. Investigators valued the metal at $2,800.
A church facilities manager refused to comment.

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