Rising copper prices spur rise in thefts

As rising copper prices spark what may be a rash of burglaries in certain parts of the Granite State, law enforcement officials believe vigilance is the best means of protection.

Copper prices peaked above $2 pound earlier this summer and in June several hundreds pounds of copper spooling was stolen from a Rochester site. Earlier this month, copper piping was stolen in Epping.

Copper gutters and flashing are being taken from existing homes, and scraps are being pilfered from residential construction sites, according to Portsmouth Police Detective Steve Arnold.

“We’ve seen an increase over the past year or so,” Arnold said. “There’s been a spike in the cost of copper and I think that’s the driving force behind these thefts.”

Construction sites, communication companies, sites of electrical installation and abandoned homes or homes in transition are all vulnerable, Arnold said.

Although not as many of copper theft have been reported in the Manchester or Concord areas, law enforcement officials there also are saying construction sites and supply businesses are at risk.

But all officials agree that property owners can take steps in protecting themselves against theft.

“This is truly a crime of opportunity. Availability has a lot to do with it,” said Manchester Police Sgt. Lloyd Doughty. “If people know they can get their hands on material easily, that’s what they’ll do.”

Despite an increase in copper theft in New Hampshire’s coastal communities, Doughty is aware of only a small number of cases in the greater Manchester area over the last year. The same is true in Concord, according to Sgt. Jim Barry.

Regardless of their jurisdiction, however, law enforcement officials agree on steps property owners can take to better protect themselves.

“Property owners can take all the basic precautions,” Arnold said. “Secure construction sites, make sure scrap metal is kept out of site and under control. Make it difficult for thieves to get a hold of it.” – TRACIE STONE

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