Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


June 17, 2014

Shameful! School copper theft a new low

— — What a despicable act! Copper stolen from an elementary school and police, who are still trying to piece together the details of this criminal attack on Athens Elementary, say the theft occurred sometime over the past month. That means it could have happened when children were in the classroom.

The damage to Athens Elementary was discovered by school officials Friday as part of their regular summer maintenance work. The crews discovered that more than 50 feet of copper pipe connected to the school’s boiler system had been stolen. Rick Ball, assistant superintendent for elementary education with Mercer County Schools, says someone used a saw to cut the two copper pipes. He says damage was limited to the two pipes and not the school’s actual boiler system. A fire extinguisher — for whatever reason — also was stolen from the school.

But clearly this criminal act could have endangered the lives of small children — particularly if the copper was stolen while students were still in the classroom. And that further aggravates the very seriousness of this shameful act of thievery.

Pulling out cables or cutting copper with a knife or tools exposes the culprits to danger. And in this case children and staff at the school could have also been endangered.

Damage to the school was estimated at about $2,000, according to Senior Deputy D.A. Furches of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office.

School is out and, as a result, the theft will have no impact on the facility operations at this time, according to Ball.

But what a disgraceful act this was. Furches says last week’s incident is the first report he’s seen of copper being stolen from a school that is still open. He says copper has been stolen in the past from the old Bramwell school, which has been closed now for several years.

Because the elementary school is located in the town limits of Athens, the investigation is expected to be referred to the Athens Police Department. But for now, anyone with information regarding this criminal act should contact the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office at 304-487-8364.

We hope the true seriousness of this crime, and the impact it could have had on the youngsters at Athens Elementary, weighs heavily on the individual or individuals who perpetrated this crime. And we hope our local law enforcement officials are able to bring the suspect or suspects to justice soon.

They should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law — and made a public example of. That is the only we way we are going to prevent such attacks on our local schools in the future.

Text Only

Do you agree with the plans by Republicans to sue President Barack Obama over allegedly failing to carry out the new health care law? After voting, go to to comment.

     View Results
Letters to the Editor