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Berkley — Copper thieves have broken into nearly two dozen vacant homes in recent weeks in this Oakland County suburb.

Detective Sgt. Andrew Hadfield said Monday there have been 23 home invasions since August of dwellings advertised for sale. The thefts, while reported at various times, are believed to have occurred at night and have been discovered during inspections by the real estate agent or homeowner, he said.

“In each of these someone has broken into the houses, gone down into the basement and removed exposed copper pipe from the ceilings,” Hadfield said. “We can’t be certain it is the same person or persons but the (method of operation) is the same and the theft is the same with the targets all being older homes which have copper pipes.”

Hadfield said the rash of break-ins are scattered throughout the city and not confined to any particular area or neighborhood.

“We have not found that it has extended to neighboring cities,” he said.

Hadfield said the thieves are likely peddling the pipe to scrap metal dealers for a few dollars a pound.

“The pipe might only be worth $50 but with damage left behind by the break-in, doors, locks and even water damage, it can end up costing the home’s owners hundreds of dollars.”

Metal theft has posed a problem nationally and almost every state, including Michigan, has tried to toughen laws to deter such crimes, which target wiring and pipes and air conditioner units.

Every scrap metal dealer in Michigan is required by law to request the identification, address and fingerprints of all people selling scrap metal and to keep a record of all transactions. People selling scrap metal are supposed to sign a statement stating they are authorized to sell the metal they have and are at least 16 years old.

If the seller or buyer does not meet the law’s requirements he or she can be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by 93 days in jail and a $500 fine. Anyone selling or buying known stolen metal can face felony charges and penalties of up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Hadfield said the investigation continues, and police are asking the public to be on guard for any suspicious people in their neighborhoods, especially near vacant homes that are for sale, and to immediately report any unusual activity to police at (248) 658-3380.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

(248) 338-0319

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