Stolen mailbox latest in a rash of scrap iron theftsOne man arrested, another sought for stealing and selling city storm drain covers

Published 12:04 am Saturday, December 8, 2012

Tom and Glenda Beard moved home to Vicksburg and a 142-year-old house just two and half years ago. On Friday, they wondered if they’d made the right decision.

Their cast-iron mailbox, the pole it sat on and even the concrete in which it was set had been stolen overnight — one of the latest in a rash of thefts of iron across Vicksburg.

“They took it, concrete and all, put it in a wheelbarrow and left,” said Tom Beard, a former assistant chief with the Vicksburg Fire Department who returned to the city with his wife, Glenda, from Pensacola, Fla., in 2010. “This house has been here 142 years, and this is the first theft that I know of. My wife is very upset and she’s scared. If they’ll come in your front yard, they’ll come in your house.”

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The theft was reported two days after an Edwards man was arrested for selling stolen iron city storm drain covers and on the same morning that 10 more drain covers were stolen in three areas of the city.

Vicksburg Police Chief Walter Armstrong said another man has been identified as a suspect and was being sought Friday night.

One of the drain covers was stolen from Harrison and Martha streets, just one block from the Beards’ home, Belle Fleur at 1123 South St.

“Before we came back to Vicksburg and the house that has been in my family since 1870, I talked with the police chief about the house and neighborhood and was told crime would not be a problem,” Beard said.

“But we have to call the police all the time for the apartments across the street at South and Locust,” he said. “It’s the drugs and the alcohol, and they’ve made the neighborhood terrible.”

Beard and his wife, both 65, returned to Vicksburg, he said, after he retired from a position with Brinks Armored Cars in Pensacola.

“We’ve been working to restore this house and property,” he said. “We were set. Now it’s deflated by all of this.”

Vicksburg Police Chief Walter Armstrong said the River Chase Apartments, formerly Triple Six, at South and Locust Streets, were problematic when he first came to office in 2009, but that the number of reports coming from the complex has fallen recently.

“We’ve had hot-spots in the city where we receive numerous calls from, but right now we don’t have one particular place that stands out,” Armstrong said. “Around the time I came in office, we did notice a high call volume in that area, but we have addressed in such a way that the calls are down significantly.”

On Wednesday, Vicksburg police said 21 storm drain covers had been taken from across the city over three months.

Eddie Sizer Jr., 34, 304 Ashcraft Circle, Edwards, was arrested and faces city, county and state charges because selling sewer and manhole covers is against state law.

He was being held on $12,000 bond in the Warren County Jail on a county charge of receiving stolen property before a $25,000 bond for a municipal charge of receiving stolen property was added Friday. Sizer was still being held in Warren County Jail Friday night.

“This is a brand new problem that we have never had happen before and certainly not at that level,” Armstrong said. “This is something that just recently started.”

Sizer is accused of selling seven drain covers at Vicksburg Recycling, 4766 N. Washington St., and 14 at Worldwide Alloyed, 610 U.S. 80, which is in the county. Police recovered 12 of the storm drain covers Wednesday. Nine covers had already been cut at Worldwide Alloyed, police said.

Sizer was arrested Wednesday afternoon at Worldwide Alloyed as he attempted to sell a load of scrap tin and was recognized by employees who called police.

Armstrong said police were not pursuing charges against Vicksburg Recycling. He encouraged residents to be watchful of any suspicious activity.

“The best way of addressing it is community involvement,” Armstrong said. “One of our biggest break came by way of a couple of citizens who identified his vehicle. I encourage all the citizens to address it by calling us if they see anything suspicious.”

In the Friday reports, Sewer Department Superintendent Willie McCroy said, eight covers were taken overnight in Hamilton Heights off Fisher Ferry Road and on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The covers cost about $200 each, McCroy said.