The Suburbanite
  • Scrap thieves target copper, AC units, even brass from veterans’ grave markers

  • Police and deputies say not only are aluminum siding and copper plumbing attractive to scrap metal thieves, the grave markers for U.S. war veterans contain attractive amounts of brass.

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  • Scrap metal theft is rising in Canton and, with summer approaching, police say residents can expect to see more as thieves target aluminum siding, copper plumbing and even the brass on the grave markers of war veterans.
    Capt. Dave Davis, who heads the police department’s Detective Bureau, said scrap metal thieves tend to pick up the pace when it comes to copper, aluminum and other metal thefts not only because of a struggling economy, but also because “it’s warmer for them to be out in the summer.”
    Thieves are not only taking copper from household plumbing, they’re stealing grates from roads and the brass plaques from war veterans graves in cemeteries throughout the area, said Sgt. Gary Cochran. He is the detective assigned to handle thefts involving recyclable metals at a time when the price of copper recycles at more than $3 per pound.
    The money they receive for the metal they steal is minimal compared to the cost of the damage they leave behind.
    Copper thieves are cutting copper plumbing and water meters from basement walls, leaving water gushing into basements as they flee the scene.
    That’s what happened to Mike Rukavina’s house on Sixth Street SW.
    The thief, who police say lives just across the street from Rukavina’s vacant rental property, took two water meters from inside the basement, ripping loose the pipe and leaving water pouring onto the floor.
    “He had already cut the pipe, chopped it into pieces and left it lying on the floor upstairs by the time the police arrived,” Rukavina said.
    A police dog found the man hiding in the attic.
    “That was the first time they caught (a copper thief) in any of my houses,” said Rukavina, who owns more than a couple dozen rentals.
    Bryan Anthony, 35, of 3004 Sixth St. SW, was not only charged with breaking and entering and criminal damaging or endangering, he also was charged with felony disrupting public services. Rukavina said the last charge was lodged against him because one of the meters fed the other apartment in the house, which had been converted for the rentals.
    That was May 7. He was released the next day, after posting a $10,000 bond, and the case against him was bound over to a Stark County grand jury a week ago. (He already was out on bond from a previous unrelated break-in).
    Anthony was arrested again Thursday. Canton police said he broke into a next-door neighbor’s home, removed items and later was seen driving a stolen vehicle in the 1100 block of Bedford Avenue SW. He ran from police, but a police dog caught up to and found him hiding in a garage. He was jailed on new charges of burglary, grand theft of a motor vehicle, breaking and entering and resisting arrest.
    Page 2 of 3 - Rukavina said that when Anthony allegedly broke into his rental, he did not get away with the metal he is accused of cutting from the basement, Rukavina said.
    Rukavina took it and sold it as scrap to Slesnick’s Steel and Recycling Co. in Canton and made about $50. The cost of the repairs to his rental totaled about $1,700, he said.
    Rukavina said the break-in at his Sixth Street rental was the 42nd break-in involving copper theft at his properties in a 46-month period.
    As Rukavina spoke, Norman Yoder, a repairman for Hershberger Properties, showed up next door to made repairs to a house there. Those weren’t caused by copper theft. But, Yoder said, he’s been to plenty of homes recently where copper theft had occurred.
    Those are usually houses that had just gone through the foreclosure process.
    “It seems like a routine. It’s like every time we close on a house, the next day somebody’s taken the copper out of there,” he said.
    Rukavina said he no longer puts rental signs in the yards of his houses because it seems to attract thieves.
    Copper’s not the only valuable commodity for a scrapper.
    Dan Coen, partner with DDK Property Group in Canton, which handles more than 100 properties, said copper theft from his rentals slowed when he replaced the copper plumbing with a plastic piping called CPVC or chlorinated polyvinyl chloride pipe.
    His main problem, however, was that thieves were taking the water meters “because of the brass” inside them, Coen said.
    Coen went to two local scrap metal places a couple of years ago and found stolen city water meters in scrap bins. He confronted the owners and a police investigation followed.
    Carroll County sheriff’s deputies are conducting an investigation regarding multiple thefts of brass, but they have nothing to do with water meters.
    Lt. Ron Clapper said that in the last month alone, scrap metal thieves have stolen more than 100 brass plaques and markers from the graves of U.S. war veterans who served in any branch of the military and died any time from the Civil War to the present.
    Most recently, his caseload involved the Bethlehem Cemetery in Malvern. Not all of the material came from that cemetery, however.
    “Some belong to cemeteries in Sandyville in Tuscarawas County, some from Minerva cemeteries and some from a cemetery in Hanoverton, that we know of so far,” he said.
    The stolen material involves a brass plaque on a brass rod. Some of the plaques have been ground down from 8- or 10-inch round markers to 2-inch pieces to make the memorials look “like something that may not be recognizable,” Clapper said. “They’re cutting the brass up and selling it to scrap yards. You still can see the words. They’re all veterans markers. Depending on what graveyard, some are pretty old. A lot of the older ones are discolored and green.”
    Page 3 of 3 - In some cases, the thieves have just cut off the brass and left the rods lying in the grass.
    “I’ve arrested a lot of thieves, but this has got to be one of the lowest things they do,” Clapper said.
    Recycling businesses had called his office and surrendered the brass they received.
    Clapper said that because this is Memorial Day weekend when people tend to visit graves, he is hoping that anyone with more information will contact him at the sheriff’s department at 330-627-2141.
    Cochran also is asking people to call Canton police after seeing anyone near a vacant or unoccupied house or driving with what appears to be an air-conditioning unit in a vehicle, as more air conditioning units are being stolen from outside homes and commercial buildings.
    “It’s a quick-cut job. The air conditioning units are on the outside, so most of the time, they don’t even have to break into the house,” Cochran said. The units are often very heavy and can only be transported in larger vehicles, such as trucks.
    “If it’s not a heating and cooling place, there’s no reason to have that material in the back of a vehicle,” Cochran said.
    He urged anyone who witnesses someone entering or leaving a vacant house, or people driving with what appears to be metals in a vehicle that is not a heating-and-cooling business, to call police at 330-438-4425.

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