Cockaigne Ski Resort A Target For Scrap Metal Thieves

CHERRY CREEK – Scrap metal may not appear valuable at first glance, but it’s quickly becoming a hot commodity for thieves in the local area.

The Cockaigne Ski Resort, located on Thornton Road in Cherry Creek, has had several thefts of its scrap metal over the past several months. The resort, which closed in 2011 after the burning down of its Austrian World’s Fair ski lodge and ensuing reports of vandalism and burglaries, has become a prime target for scrap metal thieves who take advantage of its desolate location and lack of security, police said. These thieves, in an effort to make quick money, are reported to recycle their findings at local recycling centers.

“The price of metal is going up,” said Sergeant Investigator James Rensel of the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office. “This only makes scrap metal more attractive. And the heavier the better.”

The latest incident at Cockaigne was the theft of a snow-making machine, reported to have approximately 30 feet of 8 inch steel piping and a snow-making head, all valued at approximately $5,000. Other targets included catalytic converters, steel rims and vacant houses around the area.

“We work to increase our presence in these areas, but some of these locations can present some challenges to us,” said Rensel. “We often rely on the public’s help to identify anything suspicious.”

In particular, Rensel warns of vehicles coming out of abandoned or secluded areas and traveling at odd hours of the night. “If a truck is driving around with metal that looks chopped up or burned with a blowtorch, that’s usually a clue,” said Rensel. “(Thieves) typically strike on weekends and are younger and agile enough to get under tires and carry heavy things.”

Rensel recommends that residents keeps their doors and barns locked, as well as safeguard any unattended metal. Suspicious activity is to be reported to the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office “WeTip” number 800-78-CRIME (800-782-7463). Callers are eligible for up to a $1,000 reward for tips involving the stolen snow head. Descriptions of people, vehicles and license plate numbers are valued.

As for Cockaigne, the prospect of a new owner bringing year-round services may dissuade thieves from striking there again. In November 2012, Andy Goodell, the attorney leading the sale of Cockaigne, said zoning regulations in the town of Cherry Creek were being updated to allow for a year-round resort. Goodell said the property is not only being marketed as a ski resort, but also for the possibility of horseback riding, a water park and other summer activities.

“The more people who are around, the less likely these crimes will occur,” said Rensel.