Copper and lumber thieves strike Tampa Bay

TAMPA BAY, Fla .– Thieves searching for wire and lumber have hit more than 40 homes under construction in Hillsborough and Polk counties within days.

Homes by Westbay Construction Manager Mike Bagdanov told ABC Action News that 13 of the builder’s home sites were affected at Apollo Beach earlier this summer. In some cases, the amount of damage caused buyers to wait even longer to move in.

In Pasco County, crooks have hit 80 sites since January, pulling off copper or wood. And they’re not just targeting homes under construction. For example, burglars hit Zone Fitness in Carrollwood by tearing the copper wire from the gym’s four air conditioning units.

The thief drained the entire air conditioning system, costing $ 60,000 in damages, and left the gym without air conditioning for two weeks. Gym owner Tim Forrest said his gym was struggling to stay open during the pandemic and had to pay $ 10,000 out of pocket for the insurance deductible.

“You can’t make it up in a year, especially coming out of COVID,” Forrest said.

And Hernando County MPs recently arrested two people accused of stealing more than $ 70,000 in materials from nearly 20 construction sites.

In many cases, the thief earns little money compared to the amount of destruction he leaves behind. Homes by Westbay estimated the thief escaped with less than $ 50 worth of copper wire per home, but it cost the company more than $ 60,000 in damages.

Since the Zone Fitness heist, Forrest said he installed motion lights and cameras to deter anyone looking to cash in copper wire.

While homes are also affected, there are inexpensive deterrents. If you have an alarm, make sure you have a second alarm panel and place it next to your HVAC unit. Also consider installing a motion light that will light up your system at night if someone approaches.

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