Reporting Alex DeMetrick
BALTIMORE (WJZ)— It’s literally a rip off with thieves tearing out anything made of copper. Now the biggest victim is fighting back.
Alex DeMetrick reports police are beefing up their efforts to catch the copper robbers.
Surveillance video shows thieves stealing the copper downspouts from a Maryland home in a WJZ investigation from February.
Brazen enough in broad daylight, but only a shadow of what’s being taken.
“Metal pipes, grounding plates, HVAC coils, wire, gutters, even bronze statues,” said Jim Johnson, Baltimore County Police.
On Monday, Baltimore County Police announced the first task force in the state to target metal thefts.
“The number of metal thefts have more than tripled since 2009,” Johnson said.
That’s including a 450 percent increase in copper thefts.
Even though police say the 23 scrap metal recyclers in Baltimore City and county cooperate, with 27,000 transactions a month, it’s often impossible to separate out what’s been stolen.
For homeowners, the thefts are personal.
“It created a whole sense in the house of vulnerability,” said Charles George, of Baltimore.
The thefts also leave costly repairs behind.
“When someone steals an air conditioner to get the copper coil out, then they have to damage the entire air conditioner just to get the small amount of copper that’s within that air conditioner,” said Det. Cpl. Morgan Hassler, task force leader.
While police have a task force, BGE is turning to green paint to mark its property, making it tougher to sell.
“It’s a way to trace our product through the chain and help improve the likelihood that we can find those parties that are responsible,” said Ken Defontes, BGE president.
That’s because BGE is a prime target for copper thieves. At $4 a pound, everything from power poles to substations have been hit, leaving thousands of dollars in damage.
Besides the damage and dollar loss, BGE says copper thieves have also caused power outages, leaving some customers in the dark.