SANATOGA PA – Knock-knock. Who’s there? Copper! Copper who?
Copper wiring and piping theft, maybe – particularly if no one answers the knock-knock – Lower Pottsgrove Police Chief Michael Foltz told the township Board of Commissioners on Monday night (Dec. 3, 2012). And, no, he’s not joking.
Foltz said his department has seen “an alarming increase” in reports of the theft of almost anything made of copper, and specifically wiring and piping, from vacant properties within the township over several months. Four such thefts have occurred through Nov. 30, on South Sanatoga Road, in the 900 block of East Valley Road, in the 600 block of Woodland Court, and in the 2000 block of Sunnyside Avenue.
Perpetrators seem to be targeting homes they know or believe to be empty, Foltz claimed. Victimized properties so far include those that are bank-owned, under foreclosure proceedings, or listed for sale with reputable real estate agencies. The thieves are breaking in, cutting out copper pipes and wiring, and hauling them away to be sold for scrap value.
As of late Monday, the current price of scrap copper was $3.64 per pound, up from $3.42 in early January (2012), according to rates listed on one of several exchanges.
As if the thefts weren’t bad enough, Foltz told commissioners, property owners also must cope with “extensive” resulting damage the thieves leave behind.
They’ve been ripping open drywall to get to the wires for switches and outlets, Foltz said. They’ve torn apart kitchen and bathroom sinks, vanities, and showers to reach the underlying plumbing, “and in some cases causing flooding,” he added.
In one incident late last month, the bad guys even cut copper tubing to an oil tank, causing oil to spill into a basement and mix with water there. Township firefighters were called in to respond to that mess, according to the chief.
If he had his way, the board heard, Foltz would prefer to offer a far different punch line to “Copper who?” in this sad knock-knock riddle. To have the last laugh, though, he urged the public to offer some help.
“We need residents to be alert to anyone or anything they see that’s suspicious around their neighborhood, and especially around vacant homes and properties,” Foltz said. It’s possible neighbors think a legitimate contractor may be at work at a nearby house when no one else is home or living there, “but call us immediately anyway” at 610-326-1508, he added. “We’d rather come out and check to ensure they’re supposed to be there.”
He also urged real estate agents and brokers, banks, and residents to call the department to register their vacant properties.
Related (to the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ meeting of Dec. 3):
Photo from Google Images