Foreclosed Homes Target for Copper Theft
Copper wire is sold to recycling factories for big bucks, Local Records Office investigates the rise of copper theft in California
Copper theft has become a growing problem in the Los Angeles area. Just one home can have about a thousand dollars worth, making it attractive to thieves says, Local Records Office. Foreclosed homes are a target for copper theft because they are left unoccupied for weeks at a time.
It results in extra cash for the thieves and thousands of dollars in damage to properties that are already listed at very low prices.
“Many of the foreclosed properties were required or they have postings on them visible from the exterior that identifies them as foreclosure properties,” said the president of the Los Angeles Area Realtors Association, Mike Pietrek.
That means they’re sitting unoccupied for weeks at a time, a perfect target.
“We’re getting reports from agents throughout the area that these houses are starting to get broken into and the copper wire, the copper piping is being stripped and I would imagine being stripped to sell,” said Pietrek.
About a week ago, the copper was stolen out of a house in Los Angeles that caused about $4,300 in damage.
“They don’t do it carefully. If the basement is an unfinished basement or an older home, they’ll go in and they’ll pull on the copper and literally tear it out,” said Pietrek.
After it’s stolen, it could turn into close to a thousand dollars in the thieves’ pockets when cashed in.
“For some of this material, you could get upwards of $3 a pound for it,” said Jerry Miller, owner of Miller Scrap.
While it may be pretty easy to steal, it’s not a risk-free process.
“We do get various reports from around the area if anything’s stolen so we know what to watch for, and there have been several that have been apprehended through the camera system,” said Miller.
Sgt. Randy Rank with the Los Angeles Police Department says because of the increase of copper thefts, his department may be adding cameras to vacant properties to help catch the thieves.
That would be one of the two air conditioning units that were destroyed by thieves at one of our listings in Wittmann a few days ago.
Rising copper prices have to lead many of the dregs of society to smash apart $3000 – $5000 A/C units to get at the copper coils, which they then sell for about $50 bucks in order to finance their next fix. The problem has reached epidemic proportions in many parts of the country.
So what can you do about copper theft? Your best defense is awareness. Homeowners who split their time between two or more properties should include the exterior of their home in their security measures.
So if you spend time at a shore property, or have a winter home in another state, take a look at your “closing up” process to make sure your outdoor unit will be monitored along with the rest of your house.
Something as simple as adding an exterior light that illuminates that area can help prevent theft. When it comes to van theft, if you see any unusual activity, don’t be afraid to speak up!