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Charleroi offers reward in wake of copper, air conditioner thefts

| Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, 12:11 a.m.

Inundated by the theft of copper piping and air conditioning units, Charleroi borough announced Friday it is offering a $100 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of such thieves.

Charleroi Borough Manager Donn Henderson said there have been numerous copper and air conditioner thefts in recent months.

In some cases, air conditioning units have been removed from windows when businesses are closed or from vacant homes, Henderson said.

If residents see such items being removed from vacant homes, they are asked to call police immediately, Henderson said. They not to assume people performing work on vacant buildings are legitimate contractors.

Henderson said thieves are especially targeting air conditioning units in the rear of commercial properties. The air conditioning thefts have occurred during warm weather, he said.

“If someone is playing around with an air conditioner in the winter, you'd notice it,” Henderson said.

He said some thieves are hitting homes as soon as they become vacant.

“It's getting to be a real problem,” Henderson said. “People should notice if someone is coming out of a house with copper piping.”

Although Charleroi is a member of a regional police force, the reward is being offered by the borough.

“The borough felt it was important for us to pitch in, because it's most prevalent here,” Henderson said.

The Charleroi thefts are a part of a growing problem.

Donora Mayor John Lignelli said copper theft is especially bad in his community. “We've been hit mostly with copper pipes thefts,” Lignelli said. “That's been in quite a few places.”

Lignelli said thieves have especially targeted abandoned houses, stealing copper water pipes.

Southwest Regional Police Chief John Hartman said he is seeing an ongoing problem with copper pipe thefts in the municipalities his department patrols.

“Pipe (thefts) – that's a continual problem because of the scrap value of copper pipe,” Hartman said. “ ... Anything that has a scrap value, we're seeing an increase in the theft of that.

“People have to realize that something that has a scrap value, if not secured, can be stolen.”

Hartman said “the less people announce that they're not home, the less likelihood they're going to lose something from their home.”

He recommended that, when away, leave a light on at night, secure your home and have a trustworthy neighbor keep an eye on your home.

“Never go on Facebook and announce you're not home,” Hartman said. “Don't post pictures on Facebook of you in Myrtle Beach.”

Hartman said some thieves are selling the scrap metal to obtain money to buy illegal drugs. But others are doing so because they need the money for other purposes.

“We're finding if it has a scrap value, its walking,” Hartman said.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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