Undercover operation nabs Richmond copper thieves targeting churches, hospitals

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond Police are opening up about a major undercover copper theft operation.

They arrested two suspects who are accused of terrorizing the Ginter Park community for weeks. Police say the thieves hit hospitals and churches.

"It is over the top," said Father George Zahn of St. Paul's Catholic Church. "It's just uncalled for."

Father Zahn showed us where thieves yanked the copper gutters right off the building.

"I'm astonished and I'm disappointed that we have to go through this again," said Father Zahn. "You feel nothing is safe anymore."

Thieves hit the church 4 times in 6 weeks. Parishioners were asked to pray for divine intervention when the damages exceeded $14,000. The church is not alone. Crooks also hit the Richmond Children's Hospital Brook Road campus.

"We want them to know that we care," said Lt. Chris Gleason. "This is really a major crime for this community.

25 year old Ebon Fife and 31 year old Lamont Phillips were arrested and charged with larceny. Police conducted a covert operation to nab suspects in more than 11 thefts.

"In fact," said Father Zahn. "It has come to be known in the parish as the great copper robbery of 2013."

"Will these operations continue?" we asked Lt. Gleason.

"Yes," replied Gleason. "Until the last theft stops."