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Unusual items can still bring a bounty for thieves

Discussion in 'Preparedness & Survival' started by ATCclears, Feb 29, 2012.

  1. ATCclears

    ATCclears Seattle area, WA Well-Known Member

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    Unusual items can still bring a bounty for thieves, police say - The Washington Post


    Unusual items can still bring a bounty for thieves, police say
    By Erica W. Morrison, Wednesday, February 29, 11:57 AM

    When they stopped to fill their gas tanks recently, several Takoma Park residents realized something wasn’t quite right. As they pumped, a puddle of gasoline began to pool at their feet.

    This was no typical car trouble, though. Police said the drivers had fallen victim to thieves who drilled into their tanks and made off with the fuel — an attractive target, considering today’s gas prices.

    Police believe that the incidents, which can be dangerous because gasoline vapors are flammable and can ignite with a spark, occurred overnight and on weekends. Police are still looking for who committed the crimes.

    There’s no doubt that thieves are attracted to certain easily portable, high-value items: iPhones, laptop computers, cars’ Global Positioning System devices. But police say those looking to steal also go after loot that might be less obvious — but that can still bring a quick buck.

    “Thieves continue to come up with different scams and different items to steal to make money,” said Fairfax County police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell. “That’s one thing that will probably never change.”

    Around the Washington region in recent months, people have swiped catalytic converters from parked cars — valuable because they contain trace amounts of precious metals, including platinum, and can be sold for cash at scrap yards. They have snatched newly delivered packages from doorsteps.

    Sunglasses and coins have disappeared from locked and unlocked cars. A man in Charles County was charged with a string of tire and rim thefts. Work vans have been looted for tools.

    Prescription medication has been swiped from homes. Vienna police officers said they recently charged a few people who allegedly were casing cars specifically to steal liquor.

    “You think it’s strange — ‘that’s funny, they stole my gym bag’ — but nothing is really unusual,” said Officer Rebecca Innocenti, a Montgomery County police spokeswoman.

    In a recent string of Montgomery thefts, the thieves walked up driveways and lawns, sometimes in daylight, to carry out their crimes, police said. When residents questioned them, they claimed to work for a gutter-cleaning company.

    The group wasn’t after jewelry or flat-screen TVs. They were there for copper.

    In all, police said, the thieves struck 26 times over three winter months in Bethesda, Potomac and Rockville, swiping downspouts and gutters made of copper, a metal that brings a high resale value these days.

    Takoma Park police said the seven gas tank drillings were reported between November and January.

    Some of the victims had not driven their cars for several days and thought nothing of it when they found their tanks were nearly empty — until they made a trip to the gas station. Others immediately noticed a strong odor of gas.

    Takoma Park police crime analyst Andrew Gucciardo describes the drillings as “necessity thefts.”

    “In a tough economy, people are more likely to take things of necessity,” Gucciardo said.

    In addition to the gas thefts, which can mean costly repairs for car owners, Gucciardo said, there has also been a rash of diaper and laundry detergent thefts from retailers. Washington area residents have recently reported that clothing and frozen food have been stolen, police said.

    To limit the chances of falling victim, police encourage locking car doors and hiding all valuables, including items that might not seem worth stealing.

    “We have people that just go around and try door handles” said Vienna police spokesman Bill Murray. “If they find anything inside, they just take it.”

    Similarly, unlocked windows, patios or garage doors make homes good targets.

    To keep cars safe from gas thieves, AAA Mid-Atlantic recommends parking in well-lighted areas and reporting suspicious behavior — people who seem to be lurking around parked cars, for instance. If you notice dripping gasoline or smell gas, call a garage or a tow truck.

    Thieves have learned a tactic of targeting cars without attracting attention by breaking glass and without testing door after door. They have been known to comb fitness clubs for lockers they can open, take car keys and go through the nearby streets and parking areas pushing the keyless entry button. The beeps lead them straight to their bounty. Stephen Chaikin, a longtime prosecutor in Montgomery, said gym-goers should lock their keys in lockers.

    Another recent trend to target copper: thieves ripping entire HVAC units from the outside of houses, loading them onto trucks and driving off. Although the units might be worth more than $2,000, the thieves are only interested in the copper components they can sell for a fraction of that, Chaikin said.

    Prince George’s County police officers said they’ve seen thefts of air conditioning units, too, and that homes being renovated or vacant for other reasons are particular targets. Lt. Brad Pyle, who commands the Prince George’s County Police Department’s organized retail crime unit, said a quick call to police can help combat the problem because detectives there track scrap metal.

    An item’s value to a thief is subjective, said Murray, the Vienna police spokesman. Police there have responded to reports of stolen copper wire, liquor and construction tools. “Just about anything they can find,” he said.

    Some car owners leave their cars unlocked to prevent criminals from damaging their cars while breaking in. Innocenti advises otherwise, saying that gives criminals an easier shot at stealing the vehicle and possibly using it in another crime.

    The list of potential valuables to a would-be thief seems endless. But police say common sense is a powerful deterrent.

    Almost half the break-ins in Howard County are done without using force, according to county police spokeswoman Elizabeth Schroen. “The biggest tip is obvious,” she said. “Lock everything up, and you can prevent theft.”

    Staff writers Katherine Driessen, Dan Morse and Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.
     
  2. mat33

    mat33 Portland, OR Active Member

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    Is this a stock story that just gets reposted every few years? It could be since there isn't anything new here. We had problems with crackheads stealing AC units for copper in Atlanta 15 years ago. I had a coworker in Cincinnati lose a catalytic converter in 2005. And stories were all over the place on gas thieves cutting fuel lines on SUVs back in '08 when gas was $5.
     
    Nwcid and (deleted member) like this.
  3. viehmann7680

    viehmann7680 Centralia Active Member

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    Another one I heard about recently is thieves breaking into cars to steal GPS's and garage door openers. They'll look through the history and find out the house and then use the garage door opener to get in.
     
  4. chemist

    chemist Beaverton OR Well-Known Member

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  5. erudne

    erudne The Pie Matrix PPL Say Sleeping W/Your Rifle Is A bad Thing? Bronze Supporter

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    gas was $5 in 08?
     
  6. jbett98

    jbett98 NW Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Here's a good one.
    While I was standing in line at the non-ferrous weigh in scale at Metro Metals the other day, turning in a bucket of old brass facets and fittings from a plumbing job,
    A twitchy guy in front of me (he had ridden up on a bicycle) was unloading a backpack full of the smallest gauge copper wires I had ever seen. They were all 3' long.
    Along with this handful of wires was about thirty 3/8th" stainless steel, spiral wound flexible conduit and they too were 3' long.
    After he went through the weigh in process, I turned to the guy behind me and joked about what little the obvious meth head was going to get for such a small amount of wire and stainless steel.
    His reply to me was, "do you realize what that stuff is really worth." I replied about six bucks or less. He said, "take a good look at it, where have you seen it before, and it's probably worth over two grand or more".
    It finally dawned on me what it was. This tweeker was going around on his bike and cutting off the handset cables to pay phones.
    His final observation was that within a mile or so from here, you couldn't find a working payphone. He was right.
     
  7. Ben Beckerich

    Ben Beckerich NW Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Why's it worth over 2 grand?
     
  8. ATCclears

    ATCclears Seattle area, WA Well-Known Member

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    What did the meth head get the materials?

    Peter
     
  9. VW_Factor

    VW_Factor Woodburn Oregon Active Member

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  10. Roxy2711

    Roxy2711 Vancouver, WA Member

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    It seems like there have always been people stealing things that seem off (like a CAT or an A/C unit), I had a customer tow their car in that someone had stolen almost 3k in parts & accessories off his parked car while he was on vacation! But it does looks like these thiefts have become more and more common lately and people should be more aware of what is going on around them even if they think that they are in a "safe" area with people around.
     
    ATCclears and (deleted member) like this.
  11. jbett98

    jbett98 NW Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    US West's cost for sending a repairman out to over thirty pay phones. Figure in the replacement handset, cable and the time to hookup all the wires, or just pull the whole phone off the wall and take it back to a repair shop, plus the lost revenue, it adds up fast. The tweeker's hard earned money went up in smoke that day, so off he goes to another part of town tomorrow.

    Since were on the subject of tweeker losers, I will relate another true story.

    Some tweeker figured out how you can ripoff a bottle deposit recycling machine in front of a grocery store.
    The one at a time can/plastic bottle style machine, works like this, (place can inside, door closes, rollers spin the can or plastic bottle, it reads the bar code, crushes can and then opens the door for the next one).
    What if you cut the bar code off of a can and put some double stick on the back side. Place bar code on a roller. All you have to do is pretend to stick the next can into machine.
    Repeat over and over. The machine is not programed to check for the same bar code, only ones that are valid to accept. Jackpot for tweekeer.

    Only problem is the guy got greedy and my sister-in law who manages an Albertsons finally noticed that the receipts that were being brought in each day totaled up more than the machines could hold in that time period. He should have rotated to a couple of different stores, but he got lazy. His earnings for just sticking an arm into the machine over and over, $ 500.00 per day.
     
  12. Cougfan2

    Cougfan2 Hillsboro, OR Well-Known Member

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    What amazes me is some of the stuff they steal. I got some stuff stolen from the tool box in my truck a couple of years ago. It was completely my fault because I forgot to lock it after the last time I was in it.

    He stole a spotting scope. It was a cheap Bushnell so that wasn't too bad a loss, but he also took my flyfishing vest with probably a couple of hundred bucks worth of trout flies in it. That really chapped me as they probably wouldn't give him more than $20 for it at a pawn shop if they would buy it at all.
     
  13. Ben Beckerich

    Ben Beckerich NW Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    The stores aren't supposed to cash out for more than 144 cans/bottles per day per customer... so the most they should be giving out is $7.20. I don't know if it's a law or just some regulation Metro has established, but the stores are perfectly happy to comply with it, as they lose money on the whole bottle deposit thing anyway. Add to it the fact that small frauds are pretty easy to perpetrate, and most stores would be perfectly happy if the whole bottle program went POOF.

    That must have been a while ago, though... I was an LPS for Fred Meyer something like a decade ago, and our machines wouldn't credit for a bottle unless it tripped a second switch down the shoot, to prevent exactly what you're talking about. Guys started doing the UPC-on-a-stick trick almost the moment the automated machines went online.
     
  14. bearingman

    bearingman Tualatin Member

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    Worked for a bearing distributor in eugene 20 years ago, had a customer come in to get an assortment of catalogs. Back then the mfgs would put a price on the catalog so people wouldn't just throw them away. Anyway about 2 o'clock he comes back for more catalogs, seems someone took the whole box from the seat of his truck while he was eating lunch, The funny part being they left a $200 caliper that was laying on the seat under the box they took.
     
  15. Hardwood floor guy

    Hardwood floor guy Beaverton Active Member

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    the only thing a thief wont steal is your job.
     
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  16. knuckle Head

    knuckle Head southeast Well-Known Member

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    locks only keep an honest person honest, that is to a point!
     
  17. 97321

    97321 Albany Active Member

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    The metal recyclers are complicit! Chaps my hide.
     
  18. Ben Beckerich

    Ben Beckerich NW Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    I'm a carpenter... the only thing I've ever had stolen from a job site was a POS "Central Pneumatic" compressor I'd paid $70 for brand new, and was in terrible shape, literally held together by duct tape in some spots. It had been chained to a 30' IA-rated aluminum extension ladder that I'd paid probably $350 for, and was worth probably twice what the compressor was worth just in scrap. I actually laughed when I saw the ladder lying there with a cut chain still wrapped around it. I'd have been bubblegumed if they'd taken the ladder, but I'd been meaning to get a new compressor anyway.
     
  19. knuckle Head

    knuckle Head southeast Well-Known Member

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    It is never your fault that some lowlife scumbag stole something out of your unlocked vehicle or one with the window down, I have lived places where you did not have to worry about that. But it is a lesson though, one that unfortunately we all have to learn, one I learned a long time ago, out of sight out of mind.

    Scum bags can't see they do not want it, a lot of times that is deterent enough but not always.
     
  20. erudne

    erudne The Pie Matrix PPL Say Sleeping W/Your Rifle Is A bad Thing? Bronze Supporter

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    "This Is What 'Democracy' Looks Like"