Copper thefts on the rise in Richmond

By Ben Garbarek - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - There's been a decline in copper wire and pipe thefts in the last three months but in the last week several cases have been reported in Richmond. Scrap yards say when the price of copper is up, the amount of copper stolen goes up too.

Police say stealing copper is often a crime of opportunity. Thieves often break into vacant homes and take the copper wiring and pipes to sell to scrap yards.

Richmond Police say they've had four reports of copper thefts in the last week and a half after a recent drop in copper crimes.

"It's becoming really common now, very." said Joan Lyons of Lyons Plumbing and Heating. "You can take it in and make a lot of money unfortunately for the people they steal it from."

Now she tries to avoid carrying copper after having it stolen from her at work sites.

"We've had it stolen off the trucks so we try to keep everything locked up tight," she said. "We no longer, we just don't carry it."

Police say often it's difficult to figure out if copper is stolen or not.

"Copper isn't something that is identifiable," said Det.. James Higgins. "We can't go and stop somebody and be able to know for sure where that copper came from."

Several scrap metal yards say the price of many metals is on the rise. Nowadays many scrappers require anyone trying to sell metal to provide an ID and report the sale to the police. Now some local businesses say they have to be more careful how much copper they have around.

"It's so high now you have to call every time you do a job to find out what the price of copper is and you buy just what you need," Lyons said.

Police say if you own a vacant house the best thing to do is ask neighbors to look out for anything suspicious on your property.

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