Two recent break-ins at foreclosed Lincoln County residences are part of an ongoing trend among copper thieves to secure fast cash, deputies said.
According to Sheriff’s Office reports, officers responded to two break-ins and thefts Saturday at homes on Palm Tree Church Road in Vale and Bridgeview Drive in Iron Station.
Thieves removed a heat pump and furnace valued together at more than $7,000 from the western Lincoln County home, a report said.
An employee with Citi Mortgage, Inc., who works on foreclosed residences, reported the incident to the Sheriff’s Office.
He told deputies, in the report, that a back door to the home had been kicked in and items removed.
An individual with the State Employees Credit Union (SECU) reported the other incident at the Iron Station home to the Sheriff’s Office, and told deputies that a break-in occurred at the location two days earlier, on Thursday.
The SECU now owns the home, the report said.
A landscaper, who had been at the property and discovered evidence of a break-in and theft, deputies said, relayed the news to the SECU employee.
The thieves not only cut out a screen and pried open a basement window to access the home’s interior but also removed copper tubing and a condenser from the home’s heating and air unit, property valued at more than $13,000, the report said.
Insulation was also removed from around copper piping in an upstairs location, the SECU employee told deputies. However, the copper remained intact.
Deputies believe whoever took the property at the Iron Station residence had been inside the home just prior to officers’ arrival since a cigarette remained on a windowsill, filling the home with a strong odor.
Sheriff’s lieutenant Tim Johnson, head of the agency’s Major Crimes Unit, noted foreclosed homes have become easy targets for criminals looking to steal scrap metal.
The more abandoned a home appears on the outside, he noted, the more likely a thief will break-in.
“Most of the time, if the house and yard are well maintained, it is not as big of a problem,” Johnson said. “When the house is secluded, it’s a lot worse.”
Detectives have also become suspicious of subcontractors hired by real estate brokers and banks to work foreclosed homes in the area, believing many have instead the motive to steal copper and other scrap metal and sell it to area pawnshops.
“It’s such quick, easy money,” Johnson said. “Most of the time, they (banks and brokers) do not know who is actually working at the houses.”
Investigations into both incidents this month are continuing.