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Southfield

June 19, 2013

LTU campus targeted by scrap metal thieves

Two arrested after attempted getaway with 400 pounds of steel

By Jessica Strachan
C & G Staff Writer

SOUTHFIELD — Scrap metal theft is not unheard of and certainly not uncommon in abandoned or unoccupied structures, but police say two thieves made a bold attempt to steal a 400-pound structure from Lawrence Technological University during daylight hours on a school day.

A 39-year-old Southfield man and 50-year-old Detroit man were arrested by Southfield police for larceny shortly before 10:30 a.m. June 13. They had allegedly stolen a steel bulkhead and loaded it into the back of a truck, according to the police report.

“We received a report that a larceny had just occurred at Lawrence Tech. … That individuals in a red Chevy F-10 pickup had just stolen something from the campus and were heading westbound on 10 Mile Road,” Lt. Nick Loussia, of the Southfield Police Department, explained. “The item that was stolen was a blue, steel bulkhead, and it’s valued at $2,000.”

That blue structure wasn’t just any blue, either. It was the notorious LTU blue, like the university’s mascot, the Blue Devil — named “Blue” — and it caught the immediate attention of a campus employee and the police looking for a red Chevy with a bright blue piece of equipment in the bed. 

Eric Pope, university spokesman, explained that the employee helped direct officers to the suspect vehicle.

“The bulkhead in this case is a safety restraining device that fits over the end of a cement/fiber beam during stress tests. The bulkheads have a box shape, made out of four heavy steel plates welded together and weigh approximately 400 pounds,” he explained in an email June 17, adding that the bulkhead was in the civil engineering testing facility. “The LTU bulkheads are painted LTU blue, which the traffic officer observed, along with the vehicle color and partial plate provided by an LTU employee.”

Loussia said nearby officers were wrapping up a traffic stop in the area of Eight Mile and Lahser roads when the information was put out and they noticed a vehicle matching the suspect description traveling southbound on Lahser near Eight Mile.

They followed the vehicle and stopped it, and were able to arrest the two men and return the large, metal framework back to the campus.

Linda Height, LTU’s vice president for finance and administration, released a statement saying, “As at any large organization, the university may occasionally be the target of people interested in theft. Lawrence Tech has a diligent campus safety department that promotes vigilance on our campus, and we are pleased that one of our employees was able to provide information to the Southfield police that led to an arrest.”

Reports indicate that Michigan has one of the highest rates of scrap metal theft in the country and the metro Detroit area ranks among the top five markets in the nation for the crime.

Loussia said that the trend has been noted in Southfield and surrounding communities.

“Metro Detroit has seen an increase in scrap metal theft. We attribute that to the number of vacant buildings,” he said. “Police, prosecutors and utility companies have been working with lawmakers to try to require businesses that accept scrap metal to give closer scrutiny to people bringing it in.”

Legislation in numerous states around the country is calling for tracking transactions and banning cash sales for scraps. For more information about Michigan laws relating to the scrap metal theft crackdown, find House Bills 4593-95 on www.legislature.mi.gov.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Jessica Strachan at jstrachan@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1108.