Police say duo stole RR copper



January 7, 2008


WILMINGTON -- Police say they caught two men taking copper wires from a railroad crossing Friday.

But at least two unrelated thefts have occurred since then elsewhere in Will County.

The overhead wires send the signal that activates the gates and warning lights at the crossings. An alarm is set off if the signal does not work, but a train must pass through the crossing first.

Gates are set to automatically go down when someone tampers with the signal wires, but some crossings do not have gates.

Police say these thefts could result in a driver believing the tracks are clear and being struck by a train.

After three thefts in the last two weeks at Union Pacific crossings in Wilmington, officers began using unmarked vehicles to keep an eye on crossings with copper wires.

At 2:24 p.m. Friday, Deputy Chief Mike Boyle and Officer Rhonda Thomas observed two men at the Kankakee River Drive crossing.

"We pulled up on them and saw one of the suspects was carrying a long tree pruner and the other carrying the wire," Thomas said.

Christopher M. Campbell, 29, of 1106 Bartell Road in Joliet, and Daniel R. Fricke, 30, of 2711 Buckingham Drive in Lisle, were arrested and booked into the county jail on charges of theft and criminal damage to railroad property.

Campbell and Fricke were both released on bond Saturday.

Thomas said it is "still under investigation" whether the pair has any involvement with the other Wilmington thefts where a tree pruner was used to cut the wire.

Similar thefts

Spokesman Pat Barry said Will County police are also investigating two recent railroad wire thefts.

"On Dec. 27, wire was taken from the crossing on Illinois 53 north of Tyler's Grain in Jackson Township and early Monday, a theft was discovered at the crossing near Illinois 53 and Laraway Road," he said.

Barry said sheriff's investigators and Wilmington police do not believe the suspects arrested Friday were involved with the other thefts.

"We're following up on a pickup truck that was seen nearby with copper wire in the back around the same time," he said.

Barry said that information has led to "a person of interest" who investigators were working to track down Monday.

A spokesman for the Union Pacific Railroad said last week the thefts regularly occur when the price of copper goes up.

Motorists are being asked to call 911 if they see anyone lurking around railroad crossings appearing to be doing work without a clearly marked Union Pacific vehicle parked nearby.

Reporter Brian Stanley can be reached at (815) 729-6079 or bstanley@scn1.com