Syracuse police fight scrap metal thefts, will you help?

Syracuse police

have started a new initiative to fight scrap metal thefts. According to authorities, this type of crime has gone up 50%, and detectives want your help stopping crooks.

It doesn't take long. As soon as a home is vacant, thieves break in within days and rip out the copper pipes. John Ascenzo has had it happen at two houses he owns in Syracuse. Ascenzo knows the value of copper is up but still shocked that thieves will do thousands in damage for just a hundred dollars worth of copper pipe.

"It's a tough battle for society," said Ascenzo today. "It's a society problem, it's a social problem. I really don't understand it and I don't see any solutions to it."

Syracuse Police say scrap metal theft went up 50% between October 2010 and October 2011. Police are targeting thieves with a new initiative. Officers will be conducting routine stops of people hauling scrap metal and checking that they are licensed. Police will also be working with local scrap yards to track materials.

Police also want the public's help. Some illegal scrappers pose as contractors and police want to hear from neighbors if they see work being done at strange hours or without a valid permit.

"If they're seeing material just being brought out of the house and nothings going in, no tools other than hacksaws, that's suspicious too just give us a call and we'll come," said Deputy Chief Joe Cecile.

Copper is the biggest draw but not all thieves are picky. Some are going after aluminum or tin just to make a quick buck.

this vacant office on the north side has all the tell tale signs - you can see where the thieves ripped out the ceilings to get at the pipes and materials above.

"They'll rip anything off they can salvage. When they go into the house for copper they take appliances to since those can be scrapped as well," said Cecile.

Landlords like John Ascenzo are glad police are targeting scrap metal thieves and still don't understand why a thief would take on hours of difficult salvage work, committing a crime that gets them a relatively small amount of money.

"For what they get out of it, you ask yourself for what? it's not worth it but they do it," said Ascenzo.

Scrap yards require anyone dropping off scrap metal to provide photo identification. Police say they will be working with Syracuse's three scrap yards to track suspicious materials.

If you think there's suspicious activity at a home, call 911. If you own a vacant home, police want to make sure you keep it secured. The Syracuse Police Department's Ordinance Enforcement Section wants to work together with homeowners. They can be reached at 448-8647