Cable-TV outages across Indianapolis lead police to raid firm

Comcast box thefts prompt battery-selling sting

INDIANAPOLIS - A rash of thefts that led to cable television outages throughout Indianapolis pushed police to raid a south-side business.

The Call 6 Investigators reported in May that thieves were cracking into roadside utility boxes across the city, stealing batteries that sometimes left nearby homes without cable.

Police have made a few arrests, including one person caught in the act when neighbors called police in the 3600 block of Clifton Street.

Police and cable companies said crooks were cashing in by selling the batteries to scrap yards and other salvage businesses.  The specialized batteries command solid cash payments due to their high amounts of valuable metals.

Because most of the stolen batteries contain markings from the various cable companies, police have been searching for where thieves may be unloading the batteries for cash.

Since city regulations require licensed scrap yards to inventory anything they buy and identify whoever is selling it, officers have been looking for any unlicensed businesses that may be fueling the demand for those stolen batteries.

Undercover officers said they started selling batteries with cable company markings to a business on the south side of Indianapolis, leading them to raid the business last week.

In their search warrant obtained by the Call 6 Investigators, police said Ace Battery in the 2100 block of Bluff Road offered them $122 for 10 batteries in one visit.  At least two had markings indicating they belonged to Comcast.

A Comcast spokeswoman said the company was working with police to solve the recent rash of battery thefts.

During a second undercover sting, police said the business bought batteries that still had wires dangling from them, as if they had been taken in a hurry.

A worker mentioned the added police scrutiny due to the recent cable TV rip-offs but then paid $150 in cash despite the undercover seller having no paperwork on the origin of the batteries, police wrote in their search warrant.

In November and again this month, undercover officers said they sold other loads of batteries to the business, even though the batteries appeared to have been stolen.

Officers raided the business and confiscated records and other evidence.  No charges have been filed yet as police organize their evidence to present to prosecutors.

The business appeared to be closed for the holiday on Christmas Eve and no one was available to comment.

A sign at the business contained a message that said batteries were bought and salvaged there.

City code enforcement officials said the business does not have a valid license and therefore there was no way of tracing where its batteries were coming from, according to the search warrant filed in the case.

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