HAZLETON -- An apartment building in downtown Hazleton was the target. The yellow sign reading the building was condemned signaled to thieves the place was empty. They broke in through a locked cellar door.
The property manager said the thieves hit the apartment building twice. The first time they got copper pipes, they then came back and stole several water heaters.
"If you need copper that bad get a job, or if you need money that bad get a job," said Joshua Feliciano, of Hazleton.
Officials said traditionally the stolen items are taken to junkyards where places pay cash for the stuff. Police said most of the time it's for drug money.
"The scrapyards have been very cooperative with us, working with us, giving us the names of the people who brought the copper in. They do have to get IDs which they do. We have not had any issues with the scrapyards. The problem is instead of locally turning this stuff in, they're going outside of the area and it's making our investigations more difficult," said Chief Brian Buglio, West Hazleton Police.
Some business owners said the thefts are an epidemic.
"I think people have got to protect their properties better with alarm systems, what have you," said Blaise Greco, of nearby Biagio's Subs and Suds.
Greco said his neighbor was the target of copper thieves.
"His parents, they both passed away and it was in the estate and was checking it every day. He went in to find all the copper gone and the boiler still running, the house could have burned down to the ground. Thankfully he found it," said Greco.
Police said neighbors can be the best defense against copper thieves. If you see someone or something suspicious you are asked to call your local police.