Two suspects are behind bars in Etowah County after investigators caught them attempting to steal copper wiring from a 911 radio tower in Glencoe.
Surveillance cameras recorded Darrell Stephen Curvin, 39, of Alexandria, and Jessica Marie Jenkins, 31, of Ohatchee, by the towers which keep two-way radios working for first responders.
They are each charged with one count of second-degree property theft, one count of possession of burglary's tools, and one count of second-degree criminal trespassing. Glencoe police and Etowah County deputies found the pair attempting to steal copper wiring from a gated-area early Monday morning.
Etowah County 911 director Kim Stowers said the county installed several security cameras at the Rock Springs Tower in August. Thieves previously stole wiring from the site four times in the past three years, and Stowers said they needed cameras to catch the thieves.
"This is our first one to try it on because it had been hit so many times. The investment will pay off," Stowers said.
"It's already a good start since August, and we've got our first arrest out of it," he said.
The tower connects all the radios for emergency services in Etowah County. It is critical to the county's law enforcement and firefighting infrastructure, especially in Glencoe and south Gadsden.
"If they had disabled that tower site, it would considerably diminish our communications capability in that part of the county," Etowah County chief deputy Michael Barton said.
The 911 staff monitors the cameras on a big television in the dispatch center. One of the dispatchers saw the break-in and burglary attempt happen in real time. The dispatcher immediately placed a call to law enforcement in that area.
"Usually the dispatchers, they're receiving a call from somebody else," Barton said.
"This time the dispatchers actually saw it because of technology that 911 has in place to protect our infrastructure in the county."
The dispatcher gave specific descriptions of what the suspects were wearing, and told deputies that the burglars had flashlights and one of them, Curvin, was trying to cover up the cameras.
"He came in through the gate and evidently the cameras made him nervous. He was using different objects he could find around the compound trying to cover the cameras," Stowers said.
Deputies found an empty Fritos bag on top of one camera, and a Styrofoam cup shoved on top of another. Curvin spent so much time searching for objects lying on the ground that officers arrived before he could leave with any copper wiring.
Investigators found $800 worth of copper wiring pulled from the ground near the tower, as well as burglars' tools inside the suspects' vehicle.
After putting Curvin in handcuffs, one of the deputies walked him back over to the camera that was once covered by the empty Fritos bag. No longer wearing a mask, Curvin looked up at the camera, allowing the dispatcher to get a good look at the culprit she helped catch.
Deputies took Curvin and Jenkins into custody and they are both being held in the Etowah County Detention Center on bonds totaling $5,500.