As a homeowner, you go to great lengths to protect your possessions from thieves. So you lock your doors and maybe even put in an alarm system. You make sure your vehicle is equipped with an anti-theft device. And you take extra precautions to keep your jewelry, electronics, and credit card information safe from unscrupulous individuals.
But while you are busy protecting the items in your home, it may behoove you to try and keep criminals from stealing things on your home. More specifically, your gutters.
Gutters = Money
Why would thieves target your home’s gutters? So they can sell them for scrap. In today’s lean economy, criminals are trying to find more innovative ways to acquire money. And they’ve discovered that metal scrap yards will buy “discarded” metal and sell it to manufacturers, who melt it down and recycle it. At the beginning of 2013, aluminum was trading at 93 cents a pound, but copper stood at $3.59 per pound.
As a result, thieves are actually tearing gutters off of homes and buildings in order to take them to the scrap yard and sell them. This was all too common in 2012.
- In January, the mayor of Rockville, Maryland told police that the copper gutters were stolen off of her home while she slept. The incident was one of 26 similar thefts reported in Rockville, as well as nearby Potomac and Bethesda.
- In July, a 42-year old man and a 19-year old woman were caught trying to steal copper gutters from the Westport, Connecticut construction site of a home that was being purchased for over $1.3 million. A neighbor heard noise at the site and called police, who found the pair with the copper in the rear seat of their car.
- In nearby Wilton, Connecticut, two different homeowners reported thefts of their copper gutters on December 5. One incident involved a 14-foot-long gutter section worth $200, and the other homeowner was relieved of a pair of 12-foot downspouts worth a total of $500.
- On December 15, a homeowner in Oak Park, Illinois called police and told them that several aluminum gutters, gutter extensions, and downspouts were stolen from his back yard, along with some ladders and other items.
- But perhaps the largest gutter theft of 2012 took place in New Canaan, Connecticut on December 5. A total of 10 copper gutter sections — with a combined value of $50,000 — were reported stolen from a home in that New England town.
How to Protect Yourself
So what can a homeowner do to keep from becoming a victim of gutter theft?
The first step is to make sure that all gutters are secured properly. Many of these incidents are crimes of opportunity, and occur when criminals notice separated or broken gutter sections hanging loose from a house or lying on the ground.
Another tip is to better illuminate the front of your home. Motion-detector lights, which are available at any hardware or home improvement store, can prevent would-be thieves from creeping through your yard under cover of darkness.
Other suggestions include paring back shrubs and trees so that your gutters (and people trying to steal them) are clearly visible from the street and passersby; as well as partnering with your neighbors to keep an eye out for suspicious activity around your homes.
Unfortunately, gutter thefts are likely to continue into (and perhaps beyond) 2013. But being aware of this potential crime and taking measures to prevent it will minimize the odds of your home being victimized by gutter thieves.