CARTHAGE, Mo. — Authorities in southwest Missouri are encountering an older type of theft only with a new twist, so to speak.

Ever since the cost of copper started going up a few years ago, the theft of that type of metal has become more and more common. Jasper County Sheriff Randee Kaiser says it’s happening again, as evidenced by the recent arrest of three Jasper County men.

“You know, we’ve had, for the past several months, quite a few incidents of wire cable being stolen, telecommunications wire, really for the better part of summer we’ve been battling that, we do periodically have the air conditioning wires and electrical wires that are also taken but this most recent trend has been toward the telecommunication wire,” said Randee Kaiser, Jasper County Sheriff.

In fact, whether you’ve stolen the wire or not, just having it will land you in jail.

“In Missouri, it is unlawful just to be in possession of telecommunication wire, unless you are involved in the installation of it or you’re the company representative but just driving around with a big bundle of that type of wire in the back of your vehicle is by itself, illegal,” said Kaiser.

Kaiser says nearly 300 pounds of twisted copper wiring was found in this van recently, even though most of it doesn’t have the characteristic copper color.

“Individuals will burn off the sheathing, the coating of that cabling, and then bundle up that copper and sell that copper,” said Kaiser.

Whether they try to sell it to a recycling business or even at a pawn shop, those business owners can play a major role in catching and convicting thieves.

“We take a person’s ID, the information off the ID, a description of the item, record a serial number if there is one, and then a lot of that goes to an online database the police can access, but sometimes on a bigger case they come directly to you if it’s a large amount of a certain item and they rely on that because that’s what ties the evidence together to show that this person had that item to show in possession of stolen goods,” said Chris Triplett, Owner, Vintage Time Keepers.