Copper thief caught after damaging school

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by Maggie Crane

KMOV.com

Posted on January 10, 2012 at 9:32 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 10 at 11:22 PM

(KMOV) -- Police have caught a thief they say caused half-a-million dollars in damages to a school.

Verdell B. Smith is accused of stealing the costly copper coils out of 23 air conditioners from Jennings Junior High School sometime over the winter break.  Police say he sold the scrap for cash.  Smith was on parole for armed robbery when officers stopped him for a traffic violation.  They say he gave up information linking him to the crimes.
 
"We made this a priority and tasked all the guys and gals to go out, stop and talk to everybody on the street regarding the crime," Lt. Jeff Fuesting said.  "When they conducted their car stops or pedestrian checks on the street to talk to those individuals, they asked about the crime to see if anybody knew anything about it that could help the police department out, and it paid off."
 
Lt. Fuesting credits two young, patrol officers on the night watch with asking the right questions and securing the break in the case.  Smith has been charged with theft, but police plan to ask for upgraded charges once the district has a firm estimate to replace each of the 23 air conditioners.

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