Two additional bronze plaques have been stolen from a local church as police are still investigating a series of scrap metal thefts in the northern sections of Greenpoint and Williamsburg near Meeker and Morgan avenues.
A total of six memorial plaques have been stolen from churches and memorial squares. The most recent thefts occurred three weeks ago, when vandals removed two large plaques outside St Stanislaus Kostkas Church (607 Humboldt Strteet), which commemorated former Pope John Paul II’s visit to the Greenpoint parish.
“We believe they were stolen overnight, on Sunday night into Monday,” said a secretary with St. Stanislaus Kostkas who declined to give her name. “The thieves just climbed over the gate, which we keep locked at night. We’re watching to make sure they don’t come back for [Pope John Paul’s] hands and feed.”
None of the other four plaques, including a St. Cecilia’s memorial for victims of the 9/11 attacks, have been recovered. Detectives from the 94th Precinct are investigating the thefts, though police officials have not released any suspects at this time and were not available to comment on the case.
In response to the thefts, Assemblyman Joseph Lentol will be introducing legislation to make it a felony to steal or possess a stolen memorial item. If the person convicted of possession owns a scrap metal recycling company, they would lose their license to operate the scrap yard.
“I am asking that my colleagues understand how urgent this situation is in my community and that they assist me in protecting these memorials before any more go missing,” said Lentol.
The church isn’t the only victim of metal property thefts. Residents of nearby Cooper Park, just beyond the Graham Avenue L-train stop, have been grappling with several incidents of stolen metal property over the past three weeks. Thieves have swiped copper wire, steel grills on the floors of courtyards, fire hydrant caps, and even air conditioners.
Ivette Alert, deputy director of property management at St. Nicholas NPC, received a number of complaints of from tenants she works with who live on Debevoise Avenue and Thames Street. On 131 Thames Street, thieves twice stole the covers of fans on the roof that bring in ventilation to the kitchens and bathrooms in the house. On Debevoise Avenue, suspects pilfered steel grills on the floors of the building’s courtyard that allow water to drain more easily.
“One of my maintenance guys tracked it down to scrap metal place on Morgan Avenue,” Alert said. “When we called the police, they bought the two metal grills and they wanted us to pay for our metal grills. The scrap metal place wanted $35.”
There are about 10 metal recycling companies operating in a five-mile radius of Cooper Park. Some buy copper, brass and other materials from individuals off the street while others only accept products from metal vendors such as graphic arts companies and printers. Most metal recycling yards do not quote prices for metal over the phone, though the going rate for copper is about $2.70 to $3 per pound, depending on the quality of the metal.
“We don’t buy anything off the street. We only buy from existing customers,” said Marty Grayson, senior operations manager of Greymart Environmental Services. Detectives interviewed Grayson regarding the metal thefts but he was unable to help the police investigation. “If they had them, we would never know. We wouldn’t let them in.”
The owner of a scrap yard on the corner of Maspeth and Morgan avenues, near Cooper Park, does accept metal from individuals but said he did not see anyone bring in bronze plaques over the past few weeks.
“We get IDs such as a driver’s license. If they don’t give an ID we don’t buy it,” said the owner.