Thursday, October 12, 2006

Copper Capers

By Joyce Tremel


We don't always have what you would call a crime of the week, but we do have runs on certain crimes. Sometimes it'll be retail thefts, other times vehicle break ins. For some reason, most things seem to come in groups. Except domestics. They're an almost daily occurrence and usually more plentiful near the full moon. But that's another story.

The latest crime wave, not only in Shaler, but across the country, is the theft of copper pipe. Since the beginning of the year, there have been almost a dozen of these thefts in Shaler. Half of them were thefts of copper wire or scrap copper from businesses.

Lately we've had a rash of burglaries where the actors (in Allegheny County we call them actors, not perps), break into a vacant house and steal the copper pipe. In a couple of houses, the new homeowners were lucky--the water had been shut off. In one house the actors not only took the water pipes, they pulled the gas pipes out, too. When the homeowner came to check on his house, he not found not only extensive flooding, but a dangerous gas leak. In the last two burglaries, the thieves also took the water meters.

Other communities report that thieves are making off with aluminum siding and gutters, too. The price of aluminum is high, but not as high as copper. Local scrap metal dealers are paying between $2.00 and $3.00 a pound for copper, and expect the price to keep climbing. With the average house having over 400 pounds of copper pipe, that's a lot of money for the average heroin or meth addict.

Police in many cities are advising home sellers not to leave their houses vacant. If they must, take extra precautions. Have the water and gas shut off, if possible. If there is an alarm system installed, keep it activated. Keep the electric turned on and put lights on timers inside the house, and use exterior lighting as well. Although costly, it's not nearly as expensive as repairing the damage due to gushing water throughout the house.

So, if you see people leaving a vacant house carrying copper pipe, they ain't plumbers. I suggest you call the Coppers.

42 comments:

Annette said...

The copper pipes were stolen from the abandoned farm house across the road from us a couple years ago.

Maybe it was the same guy who broke into my mom's house and stole her prescription glasses...

mike said...

My "little" brother--the one who turns 50 tomorrow!--supervises the floor installation in McMansions going up in the DC suburbs. About 10 years ago, the night after his crew finished laying all the hardwood flooring in a new Montgomery County house, thieves ripped out the copper piping in the upstairs bathrooms, flooding the entire house and forcing Jeff and his crew to redo the entire job at a cost (to some insurer) of well over $100,000. Annette: were the frames on your mom's glasses copper? ;-) Good heavens, why would someone steal a pair of prescription glasses? Go figure.

Joyce said...

why would someone steal a pair of prescription glasses?

I guess junkies need to see, too!

Cathy said...

Can anyone use this thieves stealing copper thing in the plot of their novel? Sounds like a huge problem.

Very interesting post, Joyce.

Nancy said...

I live in an older home with copper downspouts and gutters. Should I be worried? Maybe I should look into big dogs?

Joyce said...

Nancy, in some places thieves have taken the copper downspouts and gutters. Just let your neighbors know that you have NO plans on having your gutters replaced. If anyone arrives in a truck and starts removing your gutters, tell them to call the police!

I'd like to know why the scrap yards aren't penalized for buying from these people. They have to know the stuff is stolen!

Rebecca Drake said...

Amazing! We've had plenty of petty theft in our neighborhood, which the police always attribute to drug users looking for a quick heist, but I've never heard of the theft of copper pipe before.

Cute ending to your post, Joyce!

Kristine said...

Pretty wild stuff, Joyce. What will these petty thieves think of next (or maybe I shouldn't even ask).

Pat said...

Ripping out copper piping seems like a lot of work for 2 bucks a pound. If they are that industrious wouldn't honest work pay better? I guess just because you're a thief doesn't mean you're lazy...or especially smart.

lisa curry said...

We had an "actor" on this side of town who was in a vacant house stealing copper pipe but found it hard to see in the dark with the electricity shut off (guess he forgot his flashlight). So he flicked his Bic and ended up setting the house on fire because there was a gas leak in the copper pipe he was trying to steal. Last I heard, he was planning to sue the homeowner over his injuries, believe it or not!

Nancy said...

Now THAT"S the story we should use!!

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Anonymous said...

Hey I steal copper from abandoned houses. 1 hours work and 1 make nearly a 1000 dollars....I dont have a drug habit either. Im trying to make a million, theres always gonna be abandoned houses and plus if the houses are really old and crusty, the owners are gonna need new pipes anyway. Those are the kind i go for

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