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Milwaukie man confronts thief attempting to nab batteries

An unintended consequence of statewide efforts to encourage battery recycling is that thieves are increasingly going after the cash incentives to return old batteries by stealing new batteries to recycle.

Among many agencies across Oregon, Milwaukie’s Police Department has seen a recent spike in the number of battery thefts occurring in residential areas. Thieves often target travel trailers, boats and other recreational vehicles because they are parked in residential driveways easily accessible to passersby.

Thieves take the stolen batteries to recycling exchange businesses and receive $7 to $10 for each stolen battery, while victims may have paid $100 or more for it.

One incident occurred last week along the 3500 block of Southeast Filbert Street, where resident John Henry discovered a stranger in his front yard, near the travel trailer parked in his driveway. Henry confronted the man, who was in the process of stealing two batteries from a storage container installed on the tongue of the travel trailer.

“The economy — it’s hard times right now, and I’d imagine that this guy might be homeless,” Henry said. “He definitely didn’t want any confrontation, and he just wanted to get out of here, but he got away on his bike after I chased him down the street.”

One of the batteries was on the ground when Henry, 63, confronted him, grabbing and flipping the bike trailer, causing it to become unhitched. Milwaukie police later seized the bike trailer as evidence.

“I was just fortunate that I was in my yard working in my shop when I saw him in my yard, because a couple of minutes later, it would have been a lot worse,” Henry said.

He just put in the batteries new last year, and he estimates that he would have had to pay more than $200 to replace them. Now he’s decided it would be best to store the batteries inside his locked home to make it more difficult for thieves to steal them.

Police are trying to identify the suspect, described as a white man in his mid- to late 30s, 5-foot-11, weighing about 160 pounds. He has short, straight, brown hair, with light facial hair, as if unshaven. He was last seen wearing a plaid flannel shirt and blue jeans.

As this a crime of opportunity, police recommend citizens remove and secure occasionally-used batteries. Many battery storage containers are unlocked, plastic boxes attached to the exterior of recreational trailers.

Milwaukie Police also ask that when someone sees suspicious activity or observes a crime in progress, to call 9-1-1 immediately.



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