HARTLAND, Maine — Two local teenagers face burglary, theft and possession of marijuana charges after being caught trying to remove and steal copper from the local tannery late Tuesday morning, police said Thursday.
At 11:17 a.m. Tuesday, the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department received a report of a burglary in progress from a Tasman Leather Group employee who noticed an open garage door to the company’s annex building and three males inside.
One of the males ran out of the building and away before police arrived, but the other two were still in the annex building, a building generally used for storage.
“The annex building has not been in active use for quite some time,” said Detective Lt. Carl Gottardi II of Somerset County Sheriff’s Office, who also referred to the company as Irving Tannery. “The employee went over there to retrieve something and noticed people inside who shouldn’t have been.”
Deputy Don Avery, who was first on the scene, heard noises coming from inside. Deputy David Cole then arrived with the department’s K-9 dog, Ruger.
Cole searched the building with Ruger and found the two males hiding behind a machine. They were in the process of stealing copper, according to Gottardi. He said the copper already removed and the tools the teens used to remove it were located inside the building along with some marijuana and drug-related paraphernalia.
Both males are 17-year-olds from Hartland. The third male who fled is being sought by police.
“We are actively investigating to determine the identity of the person and the role they played in the theft,” said Gottardi.
Gottardi said burglaries like this one, even in broad daylight, are occurring more and more often.
“We’ve had an issue with it for years, but over the last year especially as the prices of metals keep going up, especially copper,” Gottardi said. “We’re seeing a lot more incidents like this.”
The two teens were brought to the sheriff’s department office for consultation with members of the Division of Juvenile Probation before being released into the custody of their parents, according to Gottardi.
Gottardi, who also credited Maine State Police Trooper Jesse Duda for assisting deputies at the scene, said they were still determining the amount and total value of the copper stolen, as well as the cost of repairing the damage done while removing it.
The tanning company, formerly known as Irving Tanning and later as Prime Tanning, produces finished leather. It was established in 1920 and is the largest employer in Hartland with approximately 150 employees. After filing for bankruptcy in 2010, Prime was reorganized and bought by Tasman Leather Group LLC. in 2011. Tasman Leather Group specializes in producing premium quality side leather for the U.S. military.