“They’re just gutters. Nobody’s gonna miss them.”
That may be the viewpoint of many people who aren’t familiar with the precise function of a guttering system. And it’s a likely rationale for individuals who may be considering the theft of copper gutters from a property, especially if the gutters are attached to a nonresidential structure. After all, metal scrap dealers often pay money to folks who bring in copper material for recycling – so purloining some gutters for some easy money isn’t really a big deal, right?
But morality aside, there are plenty of reasons why stealing copper gutters isn’t a smart choice. And many of them can be illustrated in a recent gutter-theft case in Florida.
Man Busted for Removing Copper Gutters From Church
Last month, a man from Riviera Beach, Florida was arrested after he reportedly admitted taking copper gutters from a Palm Beach church. Leon Primus worked for a construction company that was performing masonry work on the church on Christmas Eve. Police say that the 48-year old man went back to the site on the day after Christmas when he knew the crew would be off for the holiday. Primus allegedly snatched the gutters and sold them to a scrap dealer in West Palm Beach for about $150.
Dissecting a Doomed Plan
Let’s examine the reasons why this scheme was destined to fail from the start:
- The thief was known to be at the site. One of the first steps in any criminal investigation is to identify who was closest to the copper gutters near the time of the incident. The construction company would presumably be able to furnish authorities with a list of on-site workers, which already narrows down the list of suspects significantly.
- The thief was spotted by someone else at the church. Even though construction personnel weren’t at the site that day, it’s silly to assume that no one would be on the property at all. As it turned out, a church janitor observed Primus tearing down the gutters.
- The theft of the gutters would be discovered. Copper gutters were chosen for the church because they complemented the building’s architecture, making them more visible than unremarkable aluminum gutters. Not surprisingly, a representative from the church noticed that the gutters were missing and called law enforcement.
- The thief was caught on camera. Once the absence of the gutters was discovered, police began checking surveillance cameras in the area. Consequently, they found a pickup truck carrying copper gutters and identified Primus as the man behind the wheel.
- There was a paper trail connecting the thief to the missing gutters. By law, scrap dealers in Florida (and many other states) must comply with record keeping requirements, which include documenting every consumer scrap metal transaction. Police were easily able to find the records showing Primus selling the copper gutters to the scrapyard, as well as photos of the gutters themselves.
- The thief was spotted at the scrap dealer. In addition to paperwork evidence, an employee of the scrapyard identified Primus as someone who had sold scrap metal to the business recently.
- The thief was easily found and arrested. Primus was taken into custody the following week at another construction project. Because he continued to remain in the community and work instead of fleeing the area, police had little trouble locating him. So much for hiding in plain sight.
Stealing Copper Gutters Isn’t Worth the Trouble
In addition to a lack of forethought on the part of the thief, this crime was really a high-risk/low reward opportunity. Remember, Primus received just $150 for the gutters – a sum which he probably could have earned by working an extra day or two at his job. Primus currently faces four different charges, and if convicted, he will have a criminal record. This fact will make it more difficult to get a job from anyone – much less a construction company, since he used his employee access to facilitate a burglary and in doing so tarnished the company’s reputation. And then there’s the bad karma that comes with stealing from a church during the Christmas season.
The moral of the story is easy: if you’re ever thinking about stealing copper gutters, put that notion out of your mind completely. The crime simply isn’t worth it.
Written by Del Thebaud