Thieves on the Market: Copper burglars targeting homes for sale, for rent

Posted on: 1:30 pm, January 13, 2014, by , updated on: 05:15pm, January 14, 2014

NORMAN, Okla. – Future homeowners are becoming the target of a common crime that could severely damage a piece of property before they ever sign on the dotted line.

However, experts say those homeowners may not even realize they have been victimized until it is too late.

A typically quiet Norman neighborhood was recently targeted by thieves.

Police say the burglars stole air conditioning parts from vacant homes.

Since all the crimes appear to be similar, many local real estate agents are wondering if it’s part of a theft ring.

Tom McAuliffe, with Don Cies Real Estate, said, “It’s something that can cause us problems, especially if under contract and then all of a sudden that disappears and then we have insurance issues.”

Some of the homes were in between contracts, which had those involved wondering who will pay for the damage.

Between Nov. 1 and Jan. 8, Norman police say 11 homes that were either for sale or for rent were hit by thieves.

The burglars stole either copper from inside the unit or took the entire unit.

Experts say it’s a costly crime for the homeowner and it also provides little payoff for the thief.

John Casto, manager with Select Recycling, said, “For the most part, it’s not a big money job. You make $20 off of it and you cost someone $3,000 to replace.”

Criminals try to sell the copper at recycling centers for around $2 a pound.

However, companies like Select Recycling are looking out for stolen goods.

Casto said, “There’s a theft division in the Oklahoma City Police Department. They keep us updated with people they’ve had previous problems with and we put them on a list and those are the guys we watch out for.”

Select Recycling requires a bill of sale or a contractor’s license before they’ll purchase the copper.

While they hope that will deter criminals, real estate firms are also asking for your help.

McAuliffe said, “We’re urging people, neighbors, anyone to be aware this is going on. If their neighbor is out-of-state or out-of-town or something and they see someone messing with the air conditioning condenser, call the cops.”

Since Jan. 8, four more Norman homes that were for sale or for rent were hit by thieves.

Police say they are looking for a white Chevy short bed pickup truck with a gray driver’s side door.

If you have any information, call police.