Thieves in Bristol target items made of metal


Ed Castro woke up on a Friday morning and immediately noticed something was missing.

Outside, the symbolic red, white and blue flag that he has flown religiously from his front porch was gone.

"You might say it was just a flag, but it meant more to me than that," said Mr. Castro, who was the Chief Marshal of Bristol's Fourth of July Parade in 2008.

"It has a sentimental value. It was given to me by my family at a Fourth of July celebration in 2012. People on Oliver Street proudly fly their American Flag. It's a symbol of patriotism and love of country."

Mr. Castro immediately called police and filed a report. After describing the flag and the pole stolen, the detectives began to make a connection that Mr. Castro hadn't considered.

"Aluminum," he said. "My pole is made of aluminum, and you can sell that for cash."

Mr. Castro isn't the only resident who's had items stolen that contained metal. Over the past two months, the Bristol Police have logged five reports of metal-related thefts: Steel from a landscaping business, copper wire from a construction company yard, aluminum war veteran's flag mount from a cemetery and aluminum sailboat mast parts, which the owner noticed missing back in April. Mr. Castro's flag and pole are another.

"(Metal) is a commodity," said Dep. Chief Steven Contente. "(These thefts) are common. We have had a number of thefts in the last several years since the price of metal went up."

Along with aluminum, thieves are targeting items made of brass, copper and steel. The market price per pound of copper is currently $3.29; and .82-cents for aluminum.

For the most part, the items are stolen overnight.

"Patrol officers do the best they can to monitor who is out there at night," Dep. Chief Contente said.

However, while on the surface all the incidents appear to be metal-related, Dep. Chief Contente cautioned that the investigation into the thefts is still ongoing, and wouldn't comment on their being connected.

Mr. Castro waited several weeks to replace his flag. He appealed to the thief in an open letter to the editor of the Bristol Phoenix, asking for its safe return, no questions asked. It went unanswered.

"I will fly it out again, in the day time, and take it inside in the evening hours," he said.

Despite aluminum potentially being the reason for the theft, Mr. Castro still bought another aluminum pole.

"I'm going to stay with it," he said. "I went up and down my street and saw all the flags about in front of my neighbor's homes. Some are wood, some are aluminum. So, I'm going to just ride this out a bit, and see what happens."


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.