Copper Drain Pipes Stolen from Three Local Buildings
Police say thieves sell expensive metal to junkyards, often for drug money.
Two local churches and the town's recreation department are less-equipped to handle this weekend's forecasted showers, after thieves stripped their buildings of large sections of copper drain pipes in the last week.
The first to report missing pipes was the Unitarian Universalist Society of Wellesley Hills, which notified police Oct. 7 that four sections of downspouts had been stolen. The next day, the recreation department reported 12 10-foot sections of pipe had been taken from the Warren Building. And last Saturday, Wellesley Hills Congregational Church told police five downspouts were gone from a secluded courtyard that isn't visible from the street.
All three buildings are on Washington Street.
"Copper is very valuable," Wellesley police spokeswoman Lt. Marie Cleary explained, "so they sell it to junkyards that take it, usually for drug money."
Copper currently retails for $3.81 per pound, according to the London Bullion Market Association, which tracks worldwide metal prices. The WPD's investigation is ongoing, but no arrests have been made.
Recreation Director Jan Kaseta said the theft at the Warren Building was not reported immediately because the first maintenance worker who noticed the pipes were missing thought the department had taken them down for cleaning, since the downspouts have been clogged lately.
When Kaseta learned the drain pipes had in fact been stolen, she was surprised by how thorough the thieves were.
"I thought somebody had just hacksawed the bottoms off," Kaseta said. "But they went pretty far up. … This isn't a bunch of kids fooling around; this is someone who knows how to take large pieces and knows where to sell them."
The Warren Building's pipes have not yet been replaced, and the town will have to invite companies to bid for the repair work, Kaseta said.
Wellesley Hills Congregational hasn't replaced its pipes either but is speaking with its insurance company, according to the Rev. Matt Fitzgerald. He said his congregation isn't terribly worried about the theft, since it did not involve a break-in, and that he's encountered pipe-stealing before.
"I've known churches in other places where I've served where drain pipes were stolen," Fitzgerald said. "So, it's not unusual."
Fitzgerald shared a story from his days in Chicago about a nearby church that was swindled out of its pipes by a group of men who showed up in uniforms and a van, purporting to be a repair crew.
The thieves who have taken pipes in Wellesley have attempted no such rouse.
The Unitarian Church reported that one downspout was damaged, in addition to the four that were pilfered. A church administrator said she didn't think it was appropriate to comment on the stolen pipes and declined to provide further information to Wellesley Patch.
Cleary said there has been one residential report of stolen downspouts this year, but that came several weeks ago. In the past, the Wellesley Municipal Light Plant has been targeted by thieves who take copper wire, she said, but copper robbery has not been a problem recently.
"It's been a little while since we've had a string like this," Cleary said.