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Copper thief comeupins

If you read this blog often you know how much of a concern I consider copper theft. These guys rob investors blind and the world seems to be unable to stop them. Most of the time. Every now and then these crooks get caught.

A client of mine recently bought a foreclosure single family in St. Louis neighborhood of Tower Grove South that had been stripped of its copper and air conditioner. Its a story you hear all the time so the situation wasn’t much of a surprise. It turns out that it might have been an inside job. I say that because it happened again. Her plumber brought a load of new copper over to the building a couple of weekends ago only to find it gone in the morning. No sign of forced entry, the copper was just gone.

Obviously she was on red alert. She frustratingly told me of her situation last week. The other day I got this update:

“Big news.  The neighbor of my property called me at 6:20 am this morning because there was evidence of an entry.  I called the cops as I drove over and when I walked through the gangway the dining room light was on.  I checked the front window that was supposedly open (it was not) then walked back through the gangway to the back of the house.  The dining room light was now off.  I called the cops again, then stood in the gangway watching for the burglar to make his escape.  The cops showed up and caught him.  It was the previous owner’s son, who the neighbors have told me has been coming and going from the building.  He admitted to staying at the property, but did not admit to stealing the copper that disappeared on Saturday (costing me $500), or to stealing the copper that was previously installed in the property or the air conditioning compressor.  So the prosecuting attorney is only pressing charges for trespassing (a misdemeanor).  They will only hold him for 24 hours.  So today I am having an alarm installed.  After being arrested, hopefully he is not as interested in coming back!”

It’s a shame they couldn’t nail this guy on something more (I really can’t believe they couldn’t charge him with anything else), but this proves two things. The first is that being proactive can pay off. This investor never would have known about this if she hadn’t made contact with the neighbors and done all she could to stomp out the problem. The other important lesson here is that security should always be the first priority when you buy a property. Change locks and secure all points of entry immediately after closing. Waiting even a weekend to get to it could be too late. An alarm never hurts either. These thieves are just waiting to take advantage of an lapse in judgement. Remember that.

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