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Police say this surveillance video shows Anthony Ruiz, 22, stealing copper wire from a construction site.

LAWRENCE — Ladders, lasers, pricey power tools — even bolts of copper wire — have been stolen from construction sites around the city this summer — a crime wave police blame on petty thieves and unscrupulous contractors.

Yesterday, detectives caught a break in at least one case.

They charged Anthony Ruiz, 22, of 22 Hall St., Apt. 2, with stealing seven rolls of copper wire from Monarch on the Merrimack, a luxury condominium project being constructed at 250 Merrimack St.

A surveillance camera recorded Ruiz wheeling a cart loaded with the copper wire, estimated to be worth $3,000, out of the work site last week. A job supervisor recognized Ruiz, and police issued a warrant for his arrest. Late yesterday afternoon, Ruiz turned himself in to police. Police Chief John Romero said Ruiz, who previously worked in that area, is expected to make a full confession.

Detectives also planned to question Ruiz to see if he’s connected to any other construction thefts locally, Romero said.

Since June, four other construction sites in the city have been robbed, some two or three times.

Security fences were sliced, doors ripped apart and tool boxes pried open. Thousands of dollars worth of drills, sawzalls, hammers, grinders, torches, ladders and even an industrial fan have been reported stolen, according to details included in a sizable stack of police reports.

Laptop computers, cell phones and radios also were among the items missing from the job sites, police said.

Police don’t yet know if the breaks are related, but they strongly suspect drug-addicted street thieves, possibly combined with tool-needy contractors, are behind the thefts. They said all of the items swiped can be easily sold on the street or pawned for money.

Romero suspects some unsavory contractors might be stealing the tools “or paying someone else to get the stuff.” The tools aren’t items average homeowners would use for weekend work, he said.

“These aren’t recreational tools,” he said.

All of the construction sites were repeatedly targeted.

A site at 166 Newbury St. has been hit seven times in the last seven months, four of those times in just the past six weeks. Crews, under the supervision of L.D. Russo general contracting of Harvard, are building a community center there. A foreman yesterday acknowledged the thefts occurred but declined to comment fearing it would harm the project’s reputation.

At 467 Essex St., where apartments are being framed and drywalled, workers there lost $7,000 in lasers, chop saws, wrenches, torches and more, said Alan Labranche, a foreman for Metro Wall Construction. Those thefts occurred in early July, and crews discovered the losses when they showed up for work. They had to make emergency runs to The Home Depot to buy new tools so they could continue working, Labranche said.

Romero said because so much construction is going on in Lawrence there’s no shortage of opportunities for criminals.

Contractors typically move onto a job site and rather than load tools into a truck and leave at the end of the day, often will try to secure them in construction trailers or “job boxes,” which are easily broken into, he said.

Community policing officers will be sent to each of the sites to evaluate site security and make recommendations to the contractors.

Patrolmen also are stepping up checks at night.

“We can’t post a police officer at each site, but we can have a car do extra patrols,” Romero said.

Workers and neighbors around the construction sites are asked to call police if they spot any suspicious activity.

The city of Haverhill this year took a significant step to cut down on the theft of metals from construction sites. Scrap dealers there now must photocopy a photo identification for anybody they buy metal from, a practice already in place in Lawrence.

Already this year, one of those copies helped police identify a man who stole a $3,000 steel gate from a Creek Brook Drive food company. The man was arrested the next time he returned to the scrap yard looking to sell metal for cash.

Still, like Lawrence, the city is not impervious to construction site thefts. In March a thief made off with $13,000 of equipment from a South Main Street construction site, including an $8,000 shoveling vehicle and an $1,800 jackhammer.

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