In response to a rash of copper thefts, two Northern California police departments—San Jose and Santa Clara—set up a year-long sting investigation that resulted not only in arrests for copper theft but offenses ranging from bombmaking to car theft.
"We just thought it was going to deal with all the copper that was being stolen," San Jose police officer Jermaine Thomas told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Soon enough it went from copper to guns, then stolen vehicles, and then drug transactions."
The two departments worked with the Santa Clara County district attorney's office to set up a recycling business front in Santa Clara called Jose Clara Co-op. Word soon spread on the street that Jose Clara would take anything, no questions asked.
Local criminals sold the co-op a stolen cars, illegal guns, methamphetamine, stolen driver licenses, and even cell phone-detonated bombs.
Police say that they did business with 278 people at the co-op and only two had legal business.