Thieves seize upon copper downspouts as loot Copper drainage pipe is being stolen from houses in north Baltimore.

October 21, 1991|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,Evening Sun Staff

They're discolored, they're bent, they're battered. They're copper downspouts, and they're all the rage with thieves in northern Baltimore.

"It doesn't make a lot of sense why anyone would want to steal something like this," said a Homeland resident who recently had a 10-foot section of copper drainage pipe stolen from her garage.

"I guess that anything that's not nailed down is worth stealing to somebody. But, come to think of it, our downspouts were nailed down."

Since June, 40 to 50 copper downspout thefts in Homeland, Roland Park and Guilford have been reported, said Sgt. Dennis Rosemary of the Northern District police station.

Houses in those areas are older and more likely to have copper downspouts, police said, as opposed to newer houses equipped with less costly aluminum downspouts.

In most incidents, the thieves are quick and quiet, police and residents said. Seldom have residents heard clanging copper during its removal.

And many didn't even know their downspouts were gone until several days or weeks after its disappearance because, police said, they "just don't check their downspouts on a weekly basis."

"I went out at 12:20 one afternoon and everything was fine. I went back outside at 4 p.m. and my downspouts were gone. It was terribly frustrating," an anguished resident said.

Police theorize that the stolen copper downspouts are sold at scrap metal yards for minimal profits. The going rates at most scrap metal yards is 60 to 80 cents a pound, with a maximum of a dollar a pound.

Rosemary said police have checked eight area scrap metal yards to see if anyone has brought in large quantities of copper downspouts for sale. Police also have increased patrols in the affected areas, often using unmarked cars and plainclothes officers.

Police say they doubt the thieves try to peddle the copper to builders or contractors because the stolen downspouts are battered.

"The problem is, in these areas, you just don't know who is legit or not," Rosemary said. "You have a multitude of lawn-care people, roofers, painters and the like in the area and in the alleys."

He said it's hard to spot thieves because a downspout "folds easily and you can just put it in the trunk of your car as you drive down an alley." Alleys are common in the afflicted areas, as are high shrubs, which can make strange cars or trucks difficult to spot from houses.

Julia Kenney, a Homeland resident for about 20 years, said her cooper downspouts, which are aging and in need of replacement, have not been stolen.

Kenney said she is deciding whether to spend $3,200 for copper downspouts, the choice of thieves, or pay about half that much for aluminum.

"We have shrubs in the back. This has helped us to make a decision," Kenney said. "It will probably be aluminum."

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