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Houston police investigating stolen copper pipes that will leave some businesses without power for days

Houston Chronicle 1/5/2023 Clare Fonstein, Staff Writer

When State Farm agent and building owner Aaron German got an alert on his phone that 5 percent of customers in his neighborhood were without power, he knew what had happened — someone stole the copper pipes again.

State Farm and their neighboring business Newme Dental will be dark for days after the theft. German reported the theft to Houston Police Department and it is being investigated by the metal theft unit.   

Copper pipes were previously stolen from the building on the 8400 block of Hall Road in June, shutting off power for about two weeks for businesses.

Back then, when he got the notification of the building’s power outage, German didn't think much of it.

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“When we got there we could see the debris and some of the things by the road where the power pole is and noticed that the copper and everything was ripped off and had been ripped out,” he said. “$60,000 later, that's all back in.”  

In a copper theft, an electrician is needed to replace what was taken, and once that is done, CenterPoint Energy can restore service, officials with the utility said.

He said after the first copper theft, he set up a camera for extra security.

German said from the video of the recent theft he can see people coming to take the pipes around 11:50 p.m. Tuesday. CenterPoint confirmed their crews responded to the building's outage Wednesday morning. 

Last time he went through this, about 800 feet of pipe was stolen. This time, it's more, German said. 

Copper thefts are motivated by quick profits, the FBI has reported. They also can turn deadly, according to CenterPoint. 

Those stealing are risking electrocution, and tampering with electric equipment also comes with the danger of citizens coming in contact with energized power lines. 

Copper stolen from infrastructure is often sold for high prices to recycling centers. The copper travels through dealers, smelters, mills, foundries, ingot makers, power plants and others in order to eventually be reused.

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Copper is deemed the most valuable scrap metal, according to Astro City Scrap Metal. Copper can go for $4 per pound, they reported.  

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