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Alarm helps nab suspect in copper theft

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A homeless man hiding in a creek near South Gladstone Avenue was arrested on a theft charge after being accused of stealing copper from a large irrigation system.

Gerald D. Reed, 46, who has a last known address in Indianapolis, is in the Bartholomew County Jail with bond set at $10,000, said Maj. Todd Noblitt, chief deputy for the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department. The charge is a Class D felony.

Sheriff’s deputies were notified at 3:30 a.m. Friday that tampering had occurred at an irrigation system in the 2600 block of Gladstone after a security alarm was set off there, Noblitt said. When deputies arrived, they determined copper had been stolen from the irrigation system, he said.

The sheriff’s department was assisted by Columbus Police Department canine officer Chad Lehman and canine Rex, who searched the area and found Reed hiding in the creek, Noblitt said. Reed was taken to Columbus Regional Hospital for treatment of hypothermia then booked into the Bartholomew County Jail, he said.

Copper wiring thefts from the irrigation systems that are often left in farm fields from spring through fall have been a growing problem in Bartholomew County, Noblitt said, noting that a similar theft occurred few weeks earlier.

When thieves attempt to take copper wiring, they can cause thousands of dollars in damage to irrigation systems, Noblitt said. As a result, many farmers are installing alarms on the irrigation systems in order to protect their property, he said.

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