Copper thieves target homes, businesses and restaurants
Often appear to be repairmen to blend in
Champagne said that the thefts have happened at restaurants, businesses, homes and even a school, and that the parish has had about one reported theft every week this year.
“Copper thieves pick their targets and just strike here and there looking for unoccupied buildings, homes or businesses to avoid detection,” Champagne said.
He said that thieves take copper from homes that are under construction, communications towers and air conditioning or cooling units.
“Sometimes they look for homes under construction and watch until the plumber puts the copper pipes in and before the sheetrock for walls is put up - this makes it easy for them,” Champagne said. “Often times the thieves will appear to be air conditioning repairman and blend in or they will strike at night.”
Champagne said that the Sheriff's Office needs community help to stop these thefts.
“We need citizens to help us - if they see anyone suspicious near a restaurant or business after hours, they need to call 911,” he said. “If they are in unmarked vans or trucks, that should be suspicious.”
Champagne said that the rising price of scrap copper has probably contributed to the high amount of theft.
“It is no coincidence that when the price of scrap copper goes up, the amount of theft also increases,” he said. “We have one location in St. Charles Parish that buys scrap copper and they are very careful about doing the right thing and they cooperate with us.
“However, there are numerous scrap dealers and middle men outside of St. Charles who are not and the black market sale…is hard to control.”
Champagne said that while thieves may fetch a decent price for copper on the black market, the bigger price tag is for repairs after copper is stolen.
“The sad part is the price the thieves receive for the copper pales in comparison to the damage sustained by the property or business owner,” he said. “The thief gets a few dollars for the copper and the property owner is left with thousands of dollars in damages.”
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