Metal thefts a safety hazard in Delaware

Residents in Delaware are being asked to be on the lookout for thieves who are stealing metal, and consequently creating public safety hazards.

Common targets include copper piping from vacant properties that can cause dangerous gas leaks and stolen metal plates from traffic signals and light poles that can cause electrocution.

The problem is particularly bad in Wilmington where authorities have seen a sharp increase recently in scrap metal burglaries; 198 metal thefts so far this year, with four cases reported this past week alone.   

Wilmington Mayor James Baker, joined today by the Wilmington Police Department and Delmarva Power Wilmington, urged residents to call 911 if they witness suspicious activity, particularly around properties known to be vacant.

Police Chief Michael Szczerba said although occupied properties occasionally are targeted by metal thieves, vandals are far more likely to strike vacant properties, where the thieves can strip pipes, wires, and fixtures relatively undetected.

Metal covers of electrical access panels have also recently become a popular item among thieves.

“Metal thefts typically rise during economic downtowns, when scavengers seek scrap metal to sell for a small but quick profit,” said Wilmington Chief of Police Michael Szczerba. “Unfortunately, scrap metal thieves do not consider the dangerous risks they inflict upon themselves and the public as a result of their crimes.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.