Thieves steal copper from Evanston religious institutions five times in 2013

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Thieves steal copper from Evanston religious institutions five times in 2013

Expensive copper gutters and downspouts have been stolen overnight from Evaston religious institutions several times this year.

Expensive copper gutters and downspouts have been stolen overnight from Evaston religious institutions several times this year.

Nova Hou and Jenna Diaz/The Daily Northwestern

Expensive copper gutters and downspouts have been stolen overnight from Evaston religious institutions several times this year.

Nova Hou and Jenna Diaz/The Daily Northwestern

Nova Hou and Jenna Diaz/The Daily Northwestern

Expensive copper gutters and downspouts have been stolen overnight from Evaston religious institutions several times this year.

Ciara McCarthy, Reporter

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A group of individuals have stolen copper piping from Evanston religious institutions five times since the beginning of the year, a worrying trend for owners of older buildings with the pricey copper gutters and downspouts.

Three different Evanston churches have reported the theft of copper downspouts on the exteriors of their buildings since January. The Evanston Police Department believes the same group of individuals are perpetrating these thefts, EPD Spokesperson Cmdr. Jay Parrott  said.

Thieves have stolen downspouts from St. Nicholas Parish, 806 Ridge Ave., several times in the last five weeks, church business manager Suzanne Lefevre said. The recent incidents are the third major theft or set of thefts in two years at the church, Lefevre said.

Built in 1904, St. Nicholas has at least two of its five buildings equipped with copper gutters and downspouts, Lefevre said. The rest have downspouts made of galvanized steel. Lefevre said the thieves located the copper fixtures ahead of time and targeted those specifically. Because it is fairly easy to pry the copper off the building, the thieves generally work at night or in the early morning and leave the premises in a matter of minutes, she said. The steel gutters and downspouts have not been touched.

“They know exactly what they’re looking for and they’re pretty efficient,” Lefevre said.

The most recent thefts at St. Nicholas netted about $10,000 worth of copper. This tally does not include losses from the previous two incidences in the past two years. Nothing else of value had been stolen from the church premises. St. Nicholas is looking into options to replace the downspouts and will likely choose a non-copper alternative, Lefevre said.

Thieves also targeted St. Athanasius School, 2510 Ashland Ave., in early February. Three copper gutters valued at more than $500 were stolen from the north side of the buildings. Two days later, the thieves returned to the church and took additional gutters.

Last April, thieves took $1,000 worth of copper gutters from the First Congregational Church of Evanston, 1445 Hinman Ave., Evanston Review reported. St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 1004 Greenwood Ave., has also been a target. 

The thieves likely take the copper piping to a Chicago scrapper to have it melted for sale, Parrott said. EPD detectives have looked into different metal scrapping facilities in Chicago, but haven’t yet identified a specific location where the stolen copper is being sold, Parrott said. Copper is “one of the more valuable metals” available for sale, Parrott said.

EPD has coordinated with the institutions that have been targeted, and Parrott said patrols have been increased in those neighborhoods at night, when the majority of thefts have been committed.

— Ciara McCarthy

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