Copper and other Metal thefts from homes have gone up significantly over the past year. With copper prices around 3-4 dollars a pound, thieves are stealing all kinds of crazy things from houses from plumbing to outside air conditioner units. They then take them to a scrap yard and get paid cash for their loot.
We bought two investment properties last year in Lancaster City that were bank owned and vacant. Both houses had all the copper plumbing stolen from the basement. This helped us get thousands off of the price of the houses, but it can be a mess to fix. We then replaced the plumbing with PVC plumbing because it is much cheaper (copper is around $1 a foot and PVC is around 25 cents a foot) and we don't want to run the risk of getting robbed again.
One day this fall when we called the Lancaster City police about some stolen tools, we were informed that just that one police officer was investigating 4 stolen plumbing cases that day!! (And Lancaster City is not a big city.)
Popular Mechanics October 2008 says this:
"The U.S. Dept. of Energy estimates that losses from copper theft alone are costing the U.S. economy about $1 billion a year in replacement costs and lost productivity. And the agency counts only business losses; it doesn't take into consideration the blow to individuals when somebody rips the gutters-or, as happened in Indianapolis recently, the aluminum siding-off a house. "It's the old supply-and-demand equation: When there's more of a demand, customers will pay more for the supply," says Bruce Savage, a spokesman for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, a trade organization based in Washington, D.C.
The price of copper, he notes, has more than quadrupled in the past five years, while the value of other base metals, such as iron, steel and aluminum, has also climbed. That upward trend may continue as fast-growing Asian economies ravenously consume raw materials to build urban infrastructure, from telecom systems to office complexes, as well as electronics and other consumer goods.
The crime wave has started to affect local infrastructure in the United States. For instance, last year Seattle police shut down one scrap yard that was buying metal road signs. Honest yard operators report that they've been approached by crooks trying to unload manhole covers, sewer grates and brass components from fire hydrants. And the town of Andover, Mass., recently experienced a copper crime wave as coils of copper cable disappeared from a power substation along with the wiring that controls a railroad crossing gate."
I can't believe the stuff people steal! Are there any neighbors watching while these people are ripping gutters or SIDING off of a house ?! That is just crazy.
The article went on to suggest locking up your house with a deadbolt. (Really? Thanks I hadn't tried that!) But they just break the window and help themselves. I believe in the city it's often people from the block where the house is located; and they know which ones are vacant. My best advice is to get the house occupied quickly and make friends with the neighbors. When we have neighbors on either side looking out for us our houses have been safer.