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Copper Thefts On The Rise At Vacant Homes

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One day after the Tortorello family closed on the purchase of their Waukegan home, thieves stole thousands of dollars of copper wiring from inside. (Credit: CBS)

One day after the Tortorello family closed on the purchase of their Waukegan home, thieves stole thousands of dollars of copper wiring from inside. (Credit: CBS)

Dana Kozlov Dana Kozlov
Dana Kozlov is a general assignment reporter for CBS 2 Chicago. She...
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UPDATED 06/29/11 5:49 p.m.

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (CBS) – Vacant homes, many of them under foreclosure, often still contain something so valuable inside, that thieves are breaking in to steal it.

The thieves are targeting copper wiring other copper fixtures. CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports on why it’s happening more and more in the suburbs.

Jennifer and Vincent Tortorello had to spend thousands of dollars on repairs after thieves stole copper wiring from the basement of their Waukegan home a day after they closed on the house.

“Quite a bit of money we had to put back into it just to be able to move in,” Jennifer Tortorello said, adding that the experience was “pretty depressing.”

She said the thousands of dollars they spent to replace the copper wiring was supposed to go for other repairs at the home, “but that’ll have to wait … because of the cost of the copper.”

“We talked with the Lake County deputy and he said that they’re just being hit all over, so it’s a problem, it’s not just Waukegan.”

Realtor Linda Conde said she sees the theft problem in almost a third of her homes.

“It’s bad. It’s bad and it’s affecting the market because then the prices of the houses are way less,” Conde said.

One vandalized house in Waukegan originally listed at $75,000 but ultimately sold for half of that because of stolen copper.

Conde said the problem escalated when the foreclosure crisis hit, leaving many homes vacant and for sale in the area.

Police said thieves steal the copper and sell it for scrap for as little as $2 a piece.

Vincent Tortorello said something needs to be done.

“It gets me more upset when I see the newer homes that, all the stuff is brand new and shiny and they take it to the scrap yard and no one’s accountable,” he said.

Waukegan police have arrested many so-called ‘scrappers’ for selling stolen copper, but scrap yards aren’t policed around the clock, so catching thieves or catching scrap yard owners for accepting stolen copper isn’t easy.

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