What can you do to protect you and your neighbors from copper thefts?

Posted at: 02/19/2013 5:28 PM
Updated at: 02/19/2013 5:49 PM
By: Christine VanTimmeren

Police want you to take a closer look at what's happening on your street. The Rochester Police Department says they are seeing a consistent stream of copper thefts across the city. Last week, they were able to catch one of these thieves in action and arrested him but they said it was thanks to calls from concerned neighbors.

Rochester Police say copper theft can happen in any neighborhood, not just the inner city. So it's important for you to make note of the people and the cars you typically see. So when something seems out of place, you can notify police and that's exactly what happened in this case.

On Valentine's Day, police were called to Myrtle Street off of Lyell Avenue after concerned neighbors saw a car parked outside of a vacant home. When officers got there, they found a broken window and went inside to check it out. They found 44 year old Carlos Rivera-Perez inside stealing copper. If it weren't for that concerned neighbor who saw something strange and called, police wouldn't have known.

If there is a vacant home in your neighborhood or you know that a home you own is going to be vacant for a period of time, what can you do to make sure thieves don't make off with the copper inside?

Sgt. Justin Collins, Rochester Police Department said, “So if it is vacant like this one here, making sure the doors and the windows are secured. But obviously, if someone wants to get inside to get the copper or get whatever they can. they're going to do whatever they can to get inside. So the next part is after it's secure, just looking out, having your fellow neighbors look out for each other, letting people know, right now, the home's not occupied, this is the plan, please look out for me. It's good to be a good neighbor, it's good to look out for each other.”

Why copper is such a big ticket item right now? In February of 2009, the price of copper per pound was $1.50. In February of 2013, the price is $3.65 per pound. That's an increase of $2.15 in the last 4 years. Giving copper thieves a big incentive to find as much as they can.

In Rochester, it is a law that scrap metal businesses can't give people cash, they have to write a check so there is a paper trail if an investigation is launched.  But back in August, Senator Schumer announced he wanted to create federal legislation to stop copper thefts. He wants to make it a federal crime to steal copper from critical infrastructure and he wants those who sell metal to recyclers to have documentation that they are authorized to sell it.
News10NBC made a call to Schumer's office to see where that bill stands, but we haven't heard back from his office yet.