Thieves Breaking In For Copper Plumbing

By Justin Moss

July 22, 2010 Updated Oct 18, 2007 at 6:49 PM EDT

When thieves break into homes now, they might not look for the jewelry or wallet.

Some are going straight for the pipes.

International demand is driving up the price of copper, meaning some crooks are looking to cash in.

Ben Weitsman and Son in Owego keeps a close eye on a hot commodity.

"These are all copper or copper-baring items."

Here, customers can turn their scrap metal into cash.

And that's a convenient way for thieves to cash in on the latest trend, stealing copper.

"You look at it but you can't tell where it came from or its origin," says Vice President of Ben Weitsman & Son, Gary Caldwell.

Caldwell says that's why it's so tough to spot stolen copper.

He says thieves have also stolen the metal right off company property.

The rise in thefts forced the company to take some extra security steps, like adding cameras, and keeping a better eye on who their customers are.

"Identification of the people that bring metals to us, requiring them to identify themselves and so on, so that we are aware of who's bringing material in and what they're bringing in," says Caldwell.

There's a strong global demand for copper, drawing around 3 and a half dollars per pound on the market.

That's why police in Tioga, Otsego, Chenango and Delaware counties all report more copper thefts.

New York State Police say thieves will target homes in rural areas, and take the copper plumbing right out of the walls.

Already this year, Binghamton Police have handled 25 cases of copper thefts.

"We've had rolls of copper wire taken from railroad sites, from NYSEG work sites, and it's really a growing problem," says Capt. Alex Minor of Binghamton Police.

Minor says crooks also target NYSEG work sites for big rolls of copper, weighing hundreds of pounds.

And with the market price, that can mean a big pay off.

Norfolk Southern railroad company says thieves will steal old communication or copper signal wires hanging above its tracks.

It's working with local police to prevent more thefts.

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