It’s a crime caught on camera: thieves targeting coils of copper at a heating and cooling company in Ottawa’s south end.  It's the fourth time Ottawa Home Services has been hit in three months.   This latest theft happened early this morning. The surveillance footage is dramatic; you see the thief cutting through the locks on three trucks and hauling off with loads of copper worth hundreds of dollars. In the cover of darkness, disguised from head to toe, the lone thief goes for what he clearly knows is in this truck.

“This is what they’re after, rolls of copper,” says Al Violini, the co-owner of Ottawa Home Services, as he shows CTV Ottawa the surveillance footage his cameras captured at 3:30 this morning.   The company uses the copper for installing air conditioning and hot water tanks.

At 7 a.m. as drivers were heading out, they noticed the locks cut off two of the trucks and a handle cut clean through on a third.

“This is the fourth time in about 3 months,” says Violini, “It's been happening in the trade. When we go to the suppliers, we hear about other vehicles being broken into and the copper being stolen.”

It's happening across the country and in the United States.  As copper prices have risen, so, too have the number of thefts. 

Francis Bradley is the Vice-President of Policy Development with the Canadian Electricity Association, “They’re taking it because they're able to sell it,” he explains, “In small quantities, they can take it to scrap metal dealers.”

The Canadian Electricity Association says the consequences of this crime are huge. Thieves have stripped copper out of street lights, causing blackouts and damaged substations costing millions of dollars and lives. Six people in Canada have died in five years because of metal theft.

“Five were people died trying to steal copper from electrical facilities and were electrocuted and the sixth was an innocent man, a security guard who came upon thieves and he was beaten to death.”

The Association wants tougher regulations for those buying the copper and tougher laws for those stealing it. Those regulations currently exist in BC, Alberta and Nova Scotia.  The group is lobbying to have similar policies introduced in the other provinces that would require better identification of those selling copper and better tracking of the product being sold, in addition to a requirement that there not be a “cash-for-metal” deal in place.

“We don't have that regulation yet in Ontario or the other seven provinces, so we are hoping to see changes in Ontario in the near future.”

Al Violini wants to shut this crime down too beginning with the man on his surveillance video.

“We’re a local business and every dollar counts,” says Violini, who estimates the four thefts have resulted in $3000 to $4000 dollars in lost goods to his company, “It hurts.”

Violini has turned over the surveillance footage to the police.   He's hoping by coming forward, someone will recognize the man in the video, contact the police and put an end to this crime spree.