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Police score victory in copper thief clamp down

Three Hungarian copper thieves were caught red-handed by police in Villach, Carinthia, on Monday evening while they attempted to steal two tonnes of the valuable metal.

The men first drew suspicion on Wednesday when a worker patrolling an Austrian Railway Corporation site spotted two of the men loading stolen goods into a small truck in which another man waited at the wheel. Inside the truck police later found almost 2 tonnes of copper in the form of carrier and connector cables.

The men – one seasonal worker, one employed and one unemployed – all come from Hungary. They had been hiding the metal to use it to repair old washing machines and car tyres. The three men showed some remorse and the public prosecutor's office handed the trio over to the judicial institution in Klagenfurt.

Police in Lower Austria have also had to deal with copper thieves after premises belonging to Austrian communications company A1 were targeted and metal to the value of 114,000 euros was taken. Two men from Slovakia were arrested, five others are under suspicion and the police are investigating several others.

Despite the police and the Austrian Railway Corporation having implemented "Taskforces" to deal with copper thieves, the problem remains because the thieves are becoming bolder and attacking premises more often. The thieves are coming under the cover of darkness to remove copper from the roofs of public buildings and steal hundreds of metres of copper cable from along train tracks – the latter causing annoying delays for commuters.

The Austrian Railway Corporation are trying to deter the thieves using preventative measures but whether this will succeed is questionable because copper theft is very lucrative and may prove too tempting. Further nuisance caused by copper theft will be tackled with tougher penalties for thieves.

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