Copper thief caught gold-handed

Thieves going for the gold — copper
The Brooklyn Paper / Tom Callan

Cops nabbed a man stealing suddenly valuable copper piping from a Con Ed under-pavement vault on Tuesday — collaring a thief they believe was responsible for at least two other similar crimes in as many weeks.

According to police, Con Ed workers watched as the 57-year-old thief picked open the sidewalk vault at the corner of Degraw Street and Fourth Avenue at around 11:30 am and quickly called police. When cops arrived, they found the man trying to take copper wiring and pipes, which have soared in value over the last few years.

Cops charged him with criminal mischief, possession of burglar’s tools and stolen property, and petit larceny.

The suspect is believed to have perpetrated a similar crime in Park Slope and at least one in the neighboring 76th Precinct.

The first theft was reported on July 1 after workers for the power company opened a sidewalk grate at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Prospect Place to discover that a transformer that was supposed to be there was not.

The electric and gas giant told cops that the piping was worth $5,700.

Four days later, Con Ed workers opened a sidewalk grate at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Second Street to find $1,200 in copper piping had been stolen.

The raw material for American pennies has risen in price from roughly 80 cents per pound in 2003 to close to $4 a pound today. Con Ed told police that copper pipes cost $7.66 a foot.

At that price, perhaps the energy monopoly will start actually locking the easy-to-pick sidewalk grates.