WAUSAU (WAOW) -- Metal thieves have hit Wausau at least three times in the past month, with some taking thousands of pounds of stolen steel at a time.
Like any other stock, the metal market changes on a regular basis. Lately, it's trending up and police say some thieves are trying to cash in on stolen steel.
The price of precious metals can change with time. But police said the mindset of opportunistic thieves stays constant -- cash in when the stakes are high.
"A significant amount of scrap stainless steel was stolen," said Wausau Police Department Officer Nathan Pekarske. "A couple thousand pounds of scrap stainless steel was stolen. In the process of that, the individuals who were involved in the theft had vandalized the security cameras of the business."
The scrap metal taken from Piper Products was valued at about $2,000. Police said they've seen this thieving trend for quite a while. Officers have filed reports for thousands of pounds of steel at a time, a task they think is too heavy for a burglar working solo.
"The quantity of steel that's taken, there's probably multiple people involved," said Pekarske. "And they have access to a large vehicle or a large truck to transport that material and some level of planning involved."
Wausau police officers work with an Internet program, tracing where metal is stolen across the state and where it turns up. It's already paid off once, when officers tracked down steel taken from Wausau this summer all the way in Green Bay. A constantly-changing market can bring uncertainty to buyers and sellers alike, even the ones who do business legally.
"It's been changing a lot. Up and down, up and down," said Ronald Dombrowski, who lives in Weston. "And you got to watch the market. Can't save it forever."
Police said the best way for business owners to ward of thieves is to not give them anything to work with.
"The best bet is to provide a well-lit atmosphere around the business or anywhere they may store scrap metal or materials," said Pekarske.
As long as the trend continues, police said they plan to keep an eye out for anything suspicious.
The recent thefts have happened across the city of Wausau on the west and east sides of town. Police said they can't confirm any connections between these thefts.