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    When it rains, it pours. There was some truth to that old saying this past week at the Up & Coming Weekly offices at 208 Rowan St. As the remnants of Fay made their way across the region, our office began to fill with water, lots of water.
    It was pouring through the ceiling, rushing through a closet and into our lobby and graphics department. Our staff was so busy trying to stop the flood; they didn’t have time to think about its cause. I was on the phone with Publisher Bill Bowman telling him about the flood situation when he pulled into the office parking lot. One glance at the building gave Bill the answer.
    Sometime during the previous night, thieves had paid a visit to our office. They didn’t kick in doors or break windows. Instead, they climbed on the roof and ripped the decorative, but functional, copper trim, gutters and downspouts off of the building’s façade. In doing so, their feet were as heavy handed as their deed damaging the seams and integrity of the roof. This caused the water to pool, and without any way to drain the only way was down.
    The thieves wasted no time in disposing of their take, hauling it only a mile away to Cohen & Green Salvage Company located on Glidden Street. They made a few dollars off the copper — not even 1/10 of its value. But in their grab for quick cash, they did more than $20,000 damage to our business. {mosimage}
    Unfortunately, this isn’t a new story or rare occurrence. It’s happening all over the country. You’ll be hard pressed to find a building contractor or air conditioning company who has not dealt with the issue. Copper is in demand and salvage yards are all too obliging to receive it. After all, all the thief has to do is steal it and the money is not bad.
    Unfortunately for these guys, they made a huge mistake. The copper on our building, unlike common copper wiring from AC units or plumbing, was pretty distinctive. Fayetteville Police officers knew exactly where to go to find it and “sure enough” they found our copper. However, by the time they got there, it was crushed — no longer functional or decorative.
    Salvage companies are now being held to stricter standards. In North Carolina, the legislature requires all scrap-metal dealers to keep detailed records of whom they buy copper from, including driver’s license and vehicle tag numbers. The legislation also prohibits the sale of scrap metal by minors and requires dealers to provide receipts to the police.
    Cohen & Green Salvage Company, which gets its share of stolen copper, has gone a step further. They videotape every transaction and share this information with the police. Their assistance had warrants issued for the thieves who helped themselves to our copper.
    Salvage companies need to do more to protect their fellow businesses and residents. The legislature needs to do more. Maybe the only people who should be able to sell scrap metal should be licensed contractors: Contractors, who if caught dealing in stolen metal, would lose their license. Or maybe the salvage companies should hold all copper for at least 48 hours to check recent police crime reports. Had that happened in our case, the copper taken from our building could have been recovered and repositioned on our building.
    This crime is not just about what they took physically from us. They took away the feeling of safety we have in our facility. They violated what we have built for our business and this community. We made the move downtown because we wanted to be a part of Fayetteville’s rebirth. Our building, although not on Hay Street, is an asset to the downtown community. Our partnership with the Fayetteville Museum of Art, the art sculptures and meditation garden all add to our city and quality of life.
    Our presence downtown, like the presence of other downtown businesses, says this is our community. It says come walk our streets, visit our gardens, feel safe — don’t be afraid. This is a new day. It’s a new way! Forget about barred windows and gated store fronts. We want to create a new face for Fayetteville — a safe place.
    People, like those who paid a late night visit to our building or who litter our streets and parks don’t respect this new day or new way. That’s their problem and that’s just too bad.
    We’ll weather this storm and put our building right. This is our city, and they can’t have it back.
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