Copper and Aluminum Theft is on the Rise

In the past few months, something has been occurring with increasing frequency; I will arrive to inspect a home and in the process of the inspection discover that copper and/or aluminum thieves have been there. With the slowdown of the economy, the rising value of scrap metals, and the rise in property foreclosures, copper and aluminum theft is on the rise. I’ve encountered missing pipes and wires inside homes as well as missing A/C compressors, and torn up irrigation systems outside; each time this occurred it was on vacant property. Many times Realtors will tell me that they were there just a few days before and everything was intact. One agent actually called me on my cell phone as I was on my way to inspect a piece of property.  He arrived a little early, only to discover that the electrical service had been stolen off the side of the house. It is horrifying how quickly a house that is in good condition and “show-able” can turn into a home that needs major renovations before it can be sold.

A recent St. Louis news report highlighted the problems Collinsville is having with copper theft. One of the homes the reporter visited suffered thousands of dollars in damage. Hard to believe that less than $100 of stolen copper can amount to thousands in repairs, but it can. If pipes were stolen there may be water damage, if wiring was stolen the whole house may need to be rewired by an electrician, and so on. So, this really is a major problem for homeowners. In Collinsville, police have recommended that people who have vacant homes for sale should come by the police department and fill out a form requesting extra patrols. Perhaps homeowners all over the St. Louis area should be doing this. The fact is, this kind of theft is a problem in the whole metro area, and the “For Sale” sign in the front yard is often a hint to thieves that the house might be vacant.

Realtors may want to pass the following information on to any clients who have vacant property. Although nothing is foolproof, some of these tips may make the home a less attractive target for copper thieves:

  • Check your homeowner’s policy to make sure you are covered when your house is vacant.
  • Consider installing an alarm system; these thieves are not always “pros” and would just as soon move on to an easier target.
  • Consider putting more lighting outside your home, especially motion sensitive lighting.
  • Make sure the home is as secure as possible, locking all doors and windows; sturdy bolt locks and secure basement windows are a must.
  • Let your local police department know that the home is vacant and request extra patrols in the area.

Mark Nahrgang is the owner of Kingdom Inspection Network Group – St. Louis and is a professional NACHI certified building inspector in the St. Louis metro area. Mark performs home inspections as well as commercial inspections throughout St. Louis and St. Charles County.

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One Response

  1. A sign clearly stating that the copper has already been stolen is useful.

    They’re all over South St. Louis.

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