Copper items stolen from church in District

March 18, 2013

The price of copper is not as high as it was a couple of years ago, but it is apparently high enough to account for the disappearance last week of a downspout and other items from a church in the District.

In addition to the downspout, some gutter material and part of the roof over a side entrance were taken from the Palisades Community Church on Cathedral Avenue NW near ­MacArthur Boulevard.

It wasn’t so much the financial loss as the annoyance of the matter, said Lee Wilson, a volunteer who oversees facilities at Palisades. It’s “a big irritant,” he said, at least in part because of what he described as the thoughtlessness inherent in it.

People who take the copper, and at times risk their lives for it, get returns that are far less than what was originally paid to install the copper items, he said.

“They don’t comprehend the replacement cost,” Wilson said.

For several years, copper thieves have plundered buildings, electrical facilities and other installations in the District and across the nation.

A news report that appeared Friday told of a guilty plea in connection with the theft of copper wire from home improvement stores around central Ohio. Prosecutors said the wire was sold to scrap yards.

A couple of years ago, the price of copper was in the range of $4.50 a pound. It has since declined but has remained relatively steady in the range of $3.50 to $3.75.

The U.S. Mint sharply reduced the amount of copper in pennies in 1982. The value of the older copper pennies is about 2 cents.

The theft at the Palisades church, which apparently occurred Wednesday night or Thursday morning, was at least the second significant theft of copper reported in the District last week.

In the other incident, someone spotted copper pipes being carried away Friday morning on the grounds of the old Webb Elementary School on Mount Olivet Road NE.

Police said descriptions of the two people were noted, along with a description of a minivan that was parked nearby.

The vehicle was stopped in the 1300 block of Bladensburg Road NE.

Police said one person was taken into custody. Copper pipe was seized, as well as the vehicle and tools, police said.

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