BBB: Price of copper attractive to thieves

Thieves have copper on their minds because of its expensive price, said a spokeswoman for the local Better Business Bureau (BBB).

"Thieves target copper in vacant buildings or difficult-to-secure areas, often without power or communication lines," said Dottie Callina, of the BBB Serving Metro Atlanta, Athens & Northeast Georgia Inc.

Skyrocketing prices for metals, especially copper, have made what was once a minor nuisance into a major problem costing over $1 billion per year according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Targeted items containing copper include pipes, wires, cables, gutters and flashing, according to Callina. They are torn and removed from walls of homes and buildings. Furthermore, roof-top air units are being stripped for their copper coils.

Areas where copper theft often occurs include construction sites, vacant buildings, communication towers, electrical sub-stations and foreclosed properties, she said. People should consider hiring a night-shift security guard for construction sites, she advised.

These targeted areas often house copper plumbing, wiring, generators, materials, air conditioners, busbars, cables, grounding bars, sprinkling systems and cooling systems, she added.

Callina said the actual damage done to steal copper items far exceeds the cost of the sought metal.

BBB wants home and business owners to protect their property from copper thieves, she said.

Homeowners should assure their residence and outbuildings are properly locked when they leave, said Callina.

Anyone planning to leave their home for an extended period of time, she said, should notify police and have a trustworthy friend or neighbor keep watch. Lights should be placed on a timer device. Mail, newspaper and other delivery should stop. "Both homeowners and businesses should consider installing exterior motion-sensor lights," she added.

All tools, wire cutters, as well as, materials containing copper must be properly secured, said Callina.

"Make it difficult for thieves," said Callina. "Move dumpsters and ladders away from buildings to make it difficult for thieves to reach rooftop refrigeration units."

Residential communities should start a neighborhood watch program, she said. This will help neighbors keep watch of each other's property. "Never assume the person working on the neighbor's air conditioner or gutter is a repairman," she said. "Check with the neighbors, then call police."