June 19, 2008

Habitat For Humanity Home Vandalized: Wiring Lifted in Keeseville Habitat Home

By Andrea VanValkenburg, The Press-Republican, Plattsburgh, N.Y.

Jun. 19--KEESEVILLE -- For the last few weeks, volunteers have been busy working to finish a Habitat For Humanity house in Keeseville.

But all of their efforts were hampered earlier this week when vandals targeted the home for a second time.

Sometime between Saturday evening and Wednesday morning, thieves sneaked into the Hill Street residence and stole every piece of hanging copper wiring they could find.

The pieces were waiting to be installed into fixtures and the circuit-breaker box. Because they were all cut off before the work was finished, all of the wiring in the house has to be replaced.

Harriet Burrell, president of the Champlain Valley Habitat For Humanity, said she believes the vandals were looking to make some quick cash by stealing the wiring for its copper value because nothing else, including tools, were touched.

Last time the house was vandalized, she said, someone stole 10 feet of aluminum-filled electrical cable that was attached to the exterior of the home.

Burrell said the damage has pushed the project back at least another month and will cost thousands of dollars to repair.

"And the blow to the morale of the volunteers is pretty big too," she said Wednesday afternoon. "They've spent long hours working on the house, and they would like to see the project finished. It's quite a devastating blow."

She said a single mother and her teenage daughter, who have also been busy working on the home, were supposed to move into the house within the next six weeks and will now have to wait as volunteers fix the damage.

Burrell said the home "is the sixth house we've built. The others were all built in West Plattsburgh and Cumberland Head and this is the first time we've had any vandalism at all."

"I was pretty shocked and "'Ӛ¦ a little disheartened," she said.

State Police officials said copper thefts are on the rise across the area by people looking to make money off the rising value of metals.

Within the last few months, several people have been arrested for stealing catalytic convertors from vehicles to make money off the small amounts of platinum inside the parts.

Construction sites are often targeted by thieves hoping to make off with expensive materials that can be sold to scrap yards for varying amounts of money.

No arrests had been made in connection with the Habitat For Humanity house as of Wednesday afternoon, and officials are investigating the thefts.

If anyone is interested in learning more about the local Habitat For Humanity organization or making a donation, call Burrell at 643-9778.

Anyone with information about the vandalism is asked to call Keeseville-based State Police at 834-9049.

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