PD: How to stop copper thieves

PHOENIX - Copper thieves have targeted churches and preschools in the Valley for the second time in less than a week.

Approximately $2,500 in damage was done to First United Methodist Church Wednesday for what Phoenix police say is likely worth about $30 at a scrap yard.

Phoenix police say the church and pre-school are the latest victims, but copper theft is happening every day across the Valley. A similar preschool was hit just days before. The damage done was estimated to be around $5,000. 

"The thieves came here and they cut the metal cage mounting that encompassed the [copper] and then they cut off the pipe for the backflow preventer," Phoenix Police Sergeant and Metal Theft Unit leader Theresa Clark said.

To defend your property from copper thieves, Sgt. Clark recommends a simple can of truck bed liner spray.

Officers say you can coat all of the valuable copper around your home with one $7 can. Any thief who sees the thick, dark coating all over your copper is likely to avoid it. The spray instantly devalues copper to metal scrap yards, and removing it is a difficult task.

Police say metal scrapping businesses should be suspicious of anyone trying to scrap painted or bed liner covered copper.

Sgt. Clark says the thousands of dollars of damage copper bandits do to businesses, schools, and churches has unseen costs that are much higher.

"That doesn't even take into account the families that had to call in to work and the businesses that are without their employees today, the children that are not being schooled today," she said. "So, when you think about how much the community is truly impacted for $30 of metal, you'll never know that final figure."

Officials say school will be out until the copper backflow device is repaired.

In Arizona, backflow preventers are illegal for scrap yards to buy, unless they are from reputable industrial businesses.

There are lots of experienced copper thieves out there. Police are hoping somebody noticed something suspicious at the church and can help them catch these burglars.

If you have any information related to this crime, you are asked to call your local police department.

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