Wisconsin News

Foreclosed homes target for copper theft

LA CROSSE, Wis. -- - Copper theft has become a growing problem in the La Crosse area.

Just one home can have about a thousand dollars worth, making it attractive to thieves.

Foreclosed homes are a target for copper theft because they are left unoccupied for weeks at a time.

It results in extra cash for the thieves and thousands of dollars in damage to properties that are already listed at very low prices.

"Many of the foreclosed properties were required or they have postings on them visible from the exterior that identify them as foreclosure properties," said the president of the La Crosse Area Realtors Association, Mike Pietrek.

That means they're sitting unoccupied for weeks at a time, a perfect target.


"We're getting reports from agents throughout the area that these houses are starting to get broke into and the copper wire, the copper piping is being stripped and I would imagine being stripped to sell," said Pietrek.

About a week ago, the copper was stolen out of a house in La Crosse that caused about $4,300 in damage.

"They don't do it carefully. If the basement is an unfinished basement or an older home, they'll go in and they'll pull on the copper and literally tear it out," said Pietrek.

After it's stolen,  it could turn into close to a thousand dollars in the thieves' pockets when cashed in.

"For some of this material, you could get upwards of $3 a pound for it," said Jerry Miller, owner of Miller Scrap.

While it may be pretty easy to steal, it's not a risk-free process.

"We do get various reports from around the area if anything's stolen so we know what to watch for, and there have been several that have been apprehended through the camera system," said Miller.

Sgt. Randy Rank with the La Crosse Police Department says because of the increase of copper thefts, his department may be adding cameras to vacant properties to help catch the thieves.

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