That theft also knocked out power to nearly 3,000 people and forced CAMC Memorial Hospital in Kanawha City to switch to backup generators for a few hours.
Baylous said these thieves are rarely first-timers and usually have extensive criminal histories. They gain experience with trial-by-error or by helping other thieves.
"These are organized crimes," he said.
Baylous said a copper theft at the State Police Detachment in Whitesville demonstrated bold lengths thieves would go to commit their crimes.
In May, two Boone County men stole phone wiring from the detachment causing about $25,000 in damage and disrupted phone service for the detachment and community for nearly two days.
But what threatens to undermine police's efforts to curb copper thefts are transient scrap dealers from states as far away as Texas and Michigan bringing trucks to West Virginia to buy scrap metal.
The new law is designed to make it more difficult for transient scrap dealers to operate in West Virginia.
The rules require operators to have a business license, a permit through the Department of Environmental Protection, a scales certificate with the Division of Labor Weights and Measures section, and a registration with the Secretary of State's office.
However Baylous said sometimes these scrap dealers ignore the law and operate illegally.
Reach Travis Crum at travis.c...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.