LORAIN, Ohio - Lorain police are encouraging residents to watch out for people stealing items from yards and selling them for profit.
Police Lt. Mark Carpentiere said most thieves or "scrappers" look for items made out of metal, like door handles, benches, bikes or gutters.
The officer said taking metal items from someone's trash on the curb on the day it is being picked up is allowed, even if the taker then sells the items to make money.
Frank Cassano worked with his fellow mechanics on an engine's temperature sender at the Lorain City Garage on 35th Street. Next to them is an impound cage filled to the brim with stolen bikes, grills, hot water heaters, copper pipes and wires and aluminum bleachers.
The bleachers, locked in the cage yesterday, were confiscated by police after being tipped off to a man trying to turn them in for cash at the Lorain County Recycling facility at 1815 Elyria Avenue Tuesday.
It is unknown from where the bleachers came. Lorain police are asking for help to determine from where they were taken after being found on nearby railroad tracks after the alleged thief dropped them there. He was later arrested.
The value of metal has risen to the point that thieves are making a living collecting metal from Lorain's businesses, yards and driveways.
The thefts have kept Lorain Police Lieutenant Ed Super extra busy this year. Super has seen thefts from local cemeteries losing huge brass doors from mausoleums to copper church gutters stolen in broad daylight.
"With the economy the way it is, we've seen quite an upswing. We would just ask that people in our neighborhoods keep an eye out for each other. They know who belongs in their neighborhoods and who doesn't. They know what vehicles come through their neighborhood," said Super. "There are legitimate scrappers out there, but there also many people out there without any scruples and they're stealing things right out of people's yards."
Super explained Wednesday that items left in garbage cans for trash pick up, or metal items left on tree lawns are not considered theft items. Anything left out for trash pick up is free for anyone to take.
Non-legitimate Lorain scrappers have been so bold as to search residents' driveways and yards, loading personal property into waiting vehicles or shopping carts to later turn into cash.
Some scrap yards are catching on to scrappers and turning away the ones who they suspect are thieves.
"If there are things we are suspicious of, we turn them away and call the police department," Lorain County Recycling Manager Tracie Ramos said.
Cassano, who explained that he is a light sleeper, awoke to the noise of his next-door neighbor having his car robbed of his tools. Immediately calling his neighbor and the police, the thief wasn't caught for several days until the tools were found with several scrap metal items in a backyard of the thief.
Cassano doesn't care how legitimate a scrapper doing it for a living may be.
"If they go beyond the tree lawn of a home, it's stealing. Even if the scrappers are taking scrap out of your yard, it's stealing. A thief is a thief," said Cassano.
Police say locking items up, or not leaving them out in the first place, will prevent these thefts from happening.
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