October 8, 2008

Copper Stripping Scourge Continues

By HOWE, Jonathon

Metal pipes and cylinders taken from three empty rural houses. -- ------------------ Copper theft continues to plague the Manawatu, with a group of meticulous thieves stripping down three rural houses in the latest string of attacks.

Two houses on State Highway 3, near Sanson, and one on Sandon Road, Mt Biggs, were targeted by thieves last week.

Hot-water cylinders, copper pipes and pumps were stolen from inside and outside the empty houses.

Feilding Acting Sergeant Scott Banner said the burglaries were likely connected.

"They've been quite extensive. It seems that they have been spending quite a long time at them.

"This is something we really need to stop."

Rural police patrols had been stepped up, but rural residents also needed to increase their security efforts, he said.

"People need to be a lot more vigilant. Writing down the number plates of any suspicious vehicles would be helpful."

Owners of empty rural houses should regularly check their properties or arrange for someone to check them. "Some of these areas are very isolated and can't be seen from the road."

Copper thieves often try to sell stolen metal to scrapyards, fetching between $6 and $7 a kilogram.

Despite the best efforts of police and scrapyard owners, stolen copper can be hard to trace.

Palmerston North police have assigned an officer to liaise with scrapyard operators.

Manawatu Neighbourhood Support co-ordinator Allan Muntz said copper thieves had targeted Manawatu rural residents for some time.

He reinforced the need for awareness of suspicious cars and people.

"There was a case in Halcombe (when a passerby) saw a car parked on the side of the road. When he drove back he saw two guys jumping off the roof of the house. By the time he got back to the road it was too late."

Rural people were usually aware of their relative isolation, which meant they were keen to get involved with neighbourhood support groups, he said.

"The people in Mt Biggs are quite alert, so we are hopeful someone has seen something."

Two Feilding businesses, T Tricklebank Plumbing and Burne Aluminium, had copper spouting and hot-water cylinders stolen from their premises last month. Four men were arrested and charged in connection with the thefts.

Police also arrested three Wellington men on October 3 for allegedly stealing scrap metal from a Sanson business. The men, two aged 21 and the other 16, will appear in Marton District Court on October 21.

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