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Copper theft on the rise in Melbourne

20 June 2013 Brendan Wong

Property managers are being urged to be vigilant, following a spate of copper thefts on vacant properties in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs.

Senior property manager at Woodards Real Estate Property Jacqui Langdon reported to Residential Property Manager that two properties in Blackburn in Melbourne had been recently robbed, with thieves stealing all copper piping and copper parts.

“It’s properties I’m assuming they’re targeting from the internet because they’re properties that have been vacant or presumed to be vacant," she said.

“The only reason we found out was because the tenants were vacating so they went to do some cleaning, and they notified us that there was no hot water.

“When we sent the plumber out there he rang me and said [thieves] had stripped the house of all the copper piping underneath.”

Ms Langdon said copper theft was an emerging occurrence in her area.

“It’s only just started in our area. We’ve had two incidents and I know that a couple of other offices have had a few done as well because when I rang the police they said they had a number of reports of it,” she said.

Neighbouring agent David Stewart of Stewart Real Estate said he had a vacant property in Mitcham that had all the copper removed.

“I was aware that a lot of copper had been stolen from the train lines over the past three to four months, but it came as an absolute surprise when I found out how widespread it was,” he said.

“There is obviously a group of people who are targeting that Blackburn area and they seem to be just targeting vacant properties as it gives them space and time to work.”

Ms Langdon attributed the theft to a high vacancy rate in the eastern suburbs.

“A lot of our properties are sitting empty for two to three months, which is unheard of,” she said. “I’ve done this for 20 years and I’ve never had it happened before, so it’s an unusual situation.

“Generally in the past, our properties are let in the 28-day cycle so people are moving in, whereas at the moment they’re sitting vacant for quite some time. Obviously it’s easy for them to get in and out and not be noticed.”

Ms Langdon said while she had tossed up the idea of taking off the availability dates from her ads online, she needed to keep marketing the properties.

“Our market is quite tough at the moment so we can’t stop marketing them," she explained.

Ms Langdon’s advice to other property managers was to be mindful and ensure that their properties were locked up and that someone was visiting them regularly.

Mr Stewart added that the key was to provide as much evidence as possible that a vacant home appeared to be occupied.

“It’s a practical cost-effective way to minimise the risks,” he said.

Copper theft on the rise in Melbourne
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