BROCKTON, Mass. – Shards of broken glass outside the basement window of 31 Vine Street hint at the destruction inside the three-story home. Thieves smashed the window to break in and then gutted the property for its copper pipes — a crime that has spread across the United States as the economy slows and foreclosed homes stand empty and vulnerable.
“They cut it here and then pulled it right out of the wall,” real estate broker Marc Charney said, pointing to broken plaster near a wrecked baseboard heating system in the 2,774-sq-ft home in Brockton, Mass., a working-class city of 94,304 people.
Similar stories are unfolding nationwide as a glut of home foreclosures coincides with record highs in the price of copper and other metals.
Real estate brokers and local authorities say once-proud homes coast-to-coast are being stripped for copper, aluminum and brass by thieves. Much of it ends up with scrap metal traders who say nearly all copper gets shipped overseas, much of it to China and India.
“The problem is there’s almost no security. Does this look like anybody lives here?” he said, gesturing to the boarded-up home with chipped yellow paint and a “notice of foreclosure” letter affixed to its door.
“It’s like a big billboard saying ’come and take me,”’ he added. “It’s an epidemic.”
Some homes worth less than their pipes—(source)
With a slow economy, rising metal prices and all the onoccupied homes on Cape Cod, especially during the off season, this is becoming a more common crime locally.
A local hotel property that sat empty for five years was recently purchased by new owners. During renovations the new owners discovered that thieves had stripped all the copper from the crawlspace under the hotel units. The replacement cost was quoted at $30,000.
A local locksmith hired by banks to lock up foreclosed homes said that many of the houses are stripped of their copper before he arrives to replace the locks.
Cleveland Heights, OH – Police broke up an organized copper-theft ring Wednesday that used foreclosure lists to pinpoint targets.
The burglars’ information on what houses to hit came from unlikely but official sources: the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office, according to Police Chief Martin Lentz.
It’s the second time in three months that Cleveland Heights police have broken up a copper-theft ring using foreclosure lists – which are public records and are available on the Internet.
Copper theft ring worked from foreclosure lists—(source)
Have an unoccupied home on Cape Cod? Property check patrol services can give you the piece of mind in knowing that your home is safe from vandals and thieves.