A sudden increase in scrap metal theft has residents posting up cash rewards, hoping clues will lead to the perpetrators.

Terry Thompson, a Jacksonville resident off of County Road 3214, has been a recent victim of theft. During the night last week, someone cut down his metal mailbox with a cutting torch.

Precinct 3 Constable Eddie Lee said this is happening more often.

“This one probably happened between midnight and 6 a.m. when nobody was out and it was night,” he said.

Thompson said the mailbox weighed about 200 pounds and was concreted in.

“Somebody had to drive these roads to know these metal mailboxes were out here,” he said.

Thompson said he has voiced his concerns to his surrounding neighbors and he hopes they will establish a neighborhood watch.

“If the thieves have the guts to use a cutting torch,” there is no telling to what extent the thieves will go to get metal, he said.

Thompson said he has become concerned about the little things getting stolen, such as mailboxes and  cattle guards, he once did not have to worry about.

“In the good ol' days, you wouldn't think about it happening,” he said.

Lee said he is calling local scrap metal companies on a regular basis asking them to look for recent items that have been stolen.

Thompson said the sudden increase in scrap metal prices may have inclined interest in metal.

William Fuller, employee for Jacksonville Iron and Metal Inc., said within the past year, the price for scrap metal has jumped from $1 for every hundred pounds to $10.

“It's always fluctuating, and it never stays the same,” he said.

Rob Gowin, owner of Sadler's, has also been a recent victim of theft. He said someone stole metal grates from the restaurant's parking lot that were built into the sidewalk.

Gowin said the grates had never been tied down in the past 15 years, and after the incident, he had to invest in locking them down.

“The people may have gotten $10 for it,” he said. “And it cost me $1,500-$2,000 for security and to replace them, after the fact.”

Lee said he is patrolling the areas getting hit and is willing to help residents in his precinct.

“I volunteered to use my office to handle cash rewards that residences of Precinct 3 may want to post,” he said. “I'm working with those living in Precinct 3 to make thieves think twice before coming into our area and stealing scrap metal.”

Lee's office is at 207 S. Patton St. and he can be reached by phone at 903-586-6211.

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