Investigators with Southampton Town Police are looking into a sharp increase in the number of copper thefts on the East End, including four incidents that took place in the past week.
One theft occurred at the Bridgehampton home of celebrity designer Isaac Mizrahi, according to authorities. Mr. Mizrahi, who lives in Manhattan, told Town Police that someone stole three copper leaders, or 60 feet of copper worth $1,000 total, from his Oak Street home. The date and time of the theft are unknown.
Detective Sergeant Randy Hintze said this week that police are currently investigating some three dozen active cases involving the theft of copper. He noted that the department started seeing an increase in the thefts last fall and that most weeks, receives between two and three new reports.
The price of copper has quadrupled over the past five years to a record-high of $4 a pound, according to sources. At the same time, scrap processors are paying up to $2.80 a pound—or 50 cents more than last year—for junk copper, according to a press release issued by Suffolk County Legislator Jack Eddington.
As a result, county lawmakers have introduced a bill that is designed to deter such thefts, which have become more common as the price of copper continues its upward climb. If adopted, the legislation would require scrap metal processors and junk dealers to electronically report all purchases of copper and non-ferrous metals up to $1,500 in value with police prior to processing the material, according to Mr. Eddington’s office.
Rob Calarco, Mr. Eddington’s legislative assistant, explained that someone would have to recycle about 500 pounds of copper to exceed the limit.
Meanwhile, Town Police are investigating four new reports of copper thefts, including the incident involving Mr. Mizrahi.
The 62-year-old owner of North Sea Plumbing and Heating, located on County Route 39A in Southampton, told officers that someone stole $1,500 worth of copper from a steel barrel inside the gated property of his business last Thursday, April 17.
“It was junk copper, which we don’t store inside the building,” said Anthony D’Italia, the owner of the business. “Over the years, copper theft has happened a couple of times. We’ve also had good copper taken off of the trucks. The brand new copper is worth more.”
Also this week, a 40-year-old man from Manhattan told Town Police that sometime between April 6 and last Thursday, April 17, someone stole 70 feet of copper gutters from his home on North Haven Way in North Haven. The gutters were worth an estimated $5,000, according to the report.
Finally, an employee of O’Donoghue and Associates, located on Harbor Watch Court in Sag Harbor, told Town Police that sometime between 5:45 p.m. on April 15 and 6:45 a.m. on April 16 someone stole $350 worth of lead coat copper from a job site on Rose Hill Road in Water Mill. The employee also noted that two air conditioners, worth $2,000 each, and five or six radiators, worth $350 apiece, were also taken from the job site.
Copper leaders are the vertical pipes that run from the gutters down the side of a home, said Town Police Sergeant Michael Zarro. He noted that homeowners often select copper leaders and gutters because the material is “prettier, more decorative and aesthetically pleasing.”
He also explained that copper leaders and gutters are easy targets for thieves because the drainage systems are not securely fastened to homes. “Leaders are held on by a half-dozen screws,” he said. “If someone just grabbed and pulled, they could force it off.”
Sgt. Zarro noted that many of the homes targeted by copper thieves are under construction or moving toward the finishing phases of construction. He added that a good way to protect against copper theft is to install motion lighting on the exterior of a home.