A statue of a soldier brandishing a copper sword atop Lincoln’s Tomb in Springfield no longer has his weapon. Some communities have already toughened laws regarding scrap metal sales. But as Amanda Vinicky reports, a state legislator says the crime shows why Illinois needs to implement his plan to target metal thieves.
It’s not the first time the soldier was stripped of his sword.
Records show a bronze sword was stolen in the 1890s. The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency’s Dave Blanchette says it was replaced with a copper version, making it the only copper on the tomb.
“It has weathered just like the rest of the statue, so you had to know what you were looking to know that it was copper,” he said. “And unfortunately the people who are in the business of stealing copper know what to look for.”
Republican Representative Mike Unes of East Peoria says the high prices of metal have led to a rash of copper theft in his area and elsewhere in Illinois. That’s why he introduced legislation to require scrap metal dealers pay customers by check, not cash. Recyclers would also have to record all metal transactions valued at over $100.
“These thefts are causing tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage for just a few hundred dollars worth of scrap,” Unes said. “It’s really a despicable act that’s going on. And I think that right here at Lincoln’s Tomb this just drives home the point that we need to get this bill passed sooner rather than later.”
Unes also says he’s researching stiffer penalties for metal thieves.
The sword at the tomb will be replaced, Blanchette says. After the case received widespread media attention, foundries have offered to take on the job free of charge. Blanchette also says because visitors who learned about the situation on the news sent in photographs, authorities were able to narrow to sometime mid-October to early October as the timetable in which the sword was stolen. The Springfield Police are investigating. Deputy Chief of the Criminal Investigations Division Cliff Busher says unless someone was caught in the act, it’s hard to find a culprit – the thin sword could easily have been mixed in with a larger pile of scrap metal when turned in to a recycler.
The measure can be found here: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp?DocNum=3825&GAID=11&GA=97&DocTypeID=HB&LegID=62102&SessionID=84