WINDHAM, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Over the years, the theft of copper seems to have grown into a bigger problem. In fact, just last year, the legislature passed new regulations on purchasing copper, peventing junk metal dealers from paying cash for metal and requiring a photo ID from anyone selling metal scraps... still, the theft continues.
One recent theft in Windham nearly turned dangerous. Police say by the time they were called to a vacant home on Brand Road Saturday morning, it was close to exploding, thanks to a propane leak.
After some investigation, Windham police say thieves had ransacked the home, taking copper piping, and in the midst of that, cut the propane line. Luckily, neighbors smelled the leak and reported it before things got worse.
Stealing copper piping is nothing new, but it has certainly picked up over the years here in Maine as the value has increased. In 2006, according to police, copper was going for about 25-cents a pound, now, it's worth between $2-$3.
Hospital construction sites, homes on the market, even Central Maine Power's electrical grid has been targeted. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of copper has been stolen and then sold to scrap metal dealers.
With the new regulations passed by the legislature, dealers say it can still be difficult to tell what's stolen and what isn't, so many rely on a website called scraptheftalert.com.
Businesses, homeowners, or police can post photos or descriptions of metals stolen or descriptions of suspects, or cars involved in the incident.
In case you're wondering, the punishment in Maine for stealing copper is up to 10 years in jail, or $20-thousand in fines.