Herb Cohen points to several houses on Old Jacksboro Street that surround the house he's currently remodeling. He says that the residences he points to are either drug houses, or belong to people who are tired of the drug element in the neighborhood.
In the backyard next to the house he's renovating, he points out a pile of wires that he says have been stripped of the metal inside. According to Cohen, this pile represents an ongoing criminal trend that has been growing in Graham, as well as the entire state of Texas, for the last three years.
Though there is no fence separating his backyard from his next door neighbor's, he doesn't get too close to the pile of wires because he doesn't want to trespass. Just down the street, about two blocks from his house, is Crestview Elementary School, and Cohen said that because he is working on renovations for his new house on Old Jacksboro, this is where his stepdaughter walks after school to meet him.
“It took me over a month to convince her that she could walk to the house,” Cohen said. “She was just scared of this house next door and preferred that I pick her up.” Cohen said that because his house on Old Jacksboro has been broken into three times and stripped of copper wiring and other metals while he wasn't there, he finally had to put security cameras all around the property.
Cohen believes that the surveillance equipment should finally render his property safe. A Pervasive Trend Graham Police Chief Tony Widner says that copper wire and other scrap metal theft is a rapidly spreading trend that is by no means exclusive to Graham. Case in point, Wichita Falls Police Sergeant John Spragins said that since Jan. 1 of this year, he's had at least 63 reports of metal theft in Wichita Falls alone.
“I would say it's probably a nationwide issue,” Spragins said. “Yes, we have seen a tremendous increase in the last few years here in Wichita Falls.” Though there is no official study linking this crime to methamphetamine or other substance addictions, just about any officer, city official or average citizen in the know connects copper and metal theft with drugs. It is no different for Sgt. Spragins in Wichita Falls.
“I think that in this part of Texas, there's just an enormous amount of meth use,” Spragins explained. “I do think the new laws help with diminishing meth use, but if you do any research on it, meth keeps you awake all night, so in the middle of the night, these people are up and they need more money. Copper is easily accessible and difficult to trace.”
Read the entire story in this weekend's edition of the Graham Leader.