Copper thieves strip seniors home of brass lettering

Brazen copper thieves are hitting Edmontonians where they live.

Brazen thieves pry up plaques in city parks

Thieves stripped some of the bronze lettering from the Ashbourne seniors residence in Garneau in south Edmonton. (CBC)

Brazen copper thieves are hitting Edmontonians where they live.

Thieves recently stripped the brass lettering from the Ashbourne seniors residence at 111th Street and 84th Avenue.

"To have people come along and rip it off your wall like that is disturbing," said building manager Sherry Canton.

Brass and bronze are metal alloys consisting primarily of copper, which has rocketed in value over the last number of years.

Thieves also pried decorative brass plaques from benches at nearby Garneau Park.

Frances Cruden, with Garneau Community League, noticed two plaques were missing and ran home to get a camera to take photos.

"And lo and behold when I went back to the park with my iPod to take these photographs there were three more inserts missing," she said.

"Obviously whoever was doing this is just coming back and just helping themselves in easy to carry amounts I suppose."

Replacement is costly

While the thefts may seem petty, Cruden said replacing the five plaques will cost the community $12,000.

Vandals also tried recently to strip the bronze from the firefighters memorial in Old Strathcona and the memorial to Grant Notley overlooking the river valley on Saskatchewan Drive. 

Chris Marshall is the plant manager for Behrends Bronze, an Edmonton company that manufactures bronze signage.

He said such thefts were once simple vandalism.

"(It used to be) teenagers stealing the initials in their name," he said. "Now people are actually going out and physically removing stuff."

He said while copper-based scrap metal once sold for 40 to 60 cents a pound, recyclers are now paying $1.20 to $2 per pound.

Scrap dealers won't talk

CBC News contacted a half dozen Edmonton scrap dealers, however none was willing to talk about the issue. 

Marshall said scrap dealers should be forced to record where the metal came from and the identification of the person bringing it in.

"I think the metal scrap dealers need to be held accountable," he said. "There needs to be some kind of system put in place provincially if not federally where people who are bringing in this type of product have to give full disclosure."

British Columbia recently toughened the rules for recyclers so as of July, if someone brings in more than $50 in scrap metal, they have to be paid by cheque.

This spring Strathcona-Sherwood Park MLA Dave Quest introduced a private member's bill that would require anyone who sells metal for recycling to show their ID.

That bill passed first reading.

In the meantime, the thefts have some looking for alternatives.

Canton said the Ashbourne seniors home may go with plastic signs next time around.