HOLMESBURG (WPVI) --Philadelphia police are searching for the thieves who stole $1-million worth of copper from a Holmesburg warehouse.
Thieves over the weekend seemed to have little trouble breaking the lock to one of the doors of the power station to a 212,000 square foot vacant warehouse on the 7700 block of Edmund Street in Northeast Philadelphia.
Managers arrived at the site Tuesday to discover thieves apparently had worked overtime ransacking miles of copper wiring from a 13,000 volt transformer that powers the warehouse.
"They knew there was probably no power, no chance of being electrocuted; it's a very dangerous operation to do that and they obviously had some knowledge or basic knowledge to do it," Lt. Dennis Rosenbaum of the Philadelphia Police Department said.
The thieves left behind some of their tools as they got away with a massive plunder of copper wiring ranging from two to eight gauge.
An electrician tells the company it would cost between $700,000 to a $1-million to replace.
"Yes, this is a major job. It didn't happen in one hour. This probably took a couple days; they systematically went through the system pulling out of the generators all the electric copper feed wires," Rosenbaum said.
Police believe thieves were planning to sell the copper to scrapyards which is selling for around $3.50 a pound.
Authorities say copper theft across the country has become a $1-billion industry.
According to the latest figures from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the Philadelphia, Camden and Wilmington region is among the top 10 across the country for metal thefts. They say the thieves are often drug addicts, but not always.
Authorities warn that while the theft at this warehouse is one of the largest they've seen recently, homeowners have also been struck.
"Have neighbors watch out for you and if your house is going to be vacant, let them know and have them watch your house for you," Rosenbaum said.
As for the massive theft at the warehouse, detectives are planning to visit a number of scrap metal sites to see if they can track down the stolen copper and, ultimately, the culprits.