Rising cost of protecting copper wire

FRESNO, Calif.

Thieves are walking away with sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars in copper wire. Now many are paying the price to hire security to stop a growing trend.

A security guard and mobile cameras are now keeping watch over this vacant building off of Peach and Olive. But, there's not much to keep an eye on except for the shell of a building.

About $300 thousand in copper wire and metal was ripped out of the commercial property that's for sale. And it's a problem that's happening all over town.

Ethan Smith said, "A prospective buyer typically wants to do some due diligence and if the lights don't work, there's no way they can know whether the air conditioning system might be in good condition."

So property owners are usually stuck with making repairs in order to sell the property.

Ethan Smith of Pearson Realty estimates it took days or even weeks for thieves to pull out copper wire from this building off of Willow and North. But, not even that was enough.

"I was the one who actually discovered it. And you could see on the warehouse floors that probably they were using a small pickup because there were literally tire marks like they were doing donuts in the warehouse," Smith said. "So apparently it wasn't enough to steal, it was actually fun."

Some land owners are learning the hard way after the damage is done, when they find out many insurance policies don't cover vandalism in buildings that have been vacant for an extended time.

Smith says not even wire fences are deterring thieves.

Commercial property brokers say vandals who are breaking in to steal hot wires have expertise in electrical wiring and disconnecting electrical panels because so far, no one has been electrocuted.

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