Copper pipes cut out of Seattle condo building

SEATTLE -- A scrap metal thief has struck again - this time at a Northgate condo complex. Now residents have a warning for all their neighbors.

The mangled edges were the first clue. Then John Pintz noticed how the copper pipes criss-crossing the parking garage suddenly went nowhere.

"It looked like the copper pipe had been torn out of the wall right here," Pintz said.

A thief had picked through the piping. No one saw the culprit come or go, but the damage created was clear.

"It's torn out from the ceiling as well," Pintz said, pointing out the extent of the damage.

Doorways at the 15-unit complex automatically lock but residents think a thief could still slip inside.

"Sometimes the doors don't close like they should," said Terry Holm, another condo owner alarmed by the break-in.

There's also the possibility that someone dashed through the garage door before it fully shut. Residents just aren't sure.

"If one of those had been left open or ajar, possibly somebody entered that way," Pintz said.

Copper pipes can fetch about $2.70 per pound, but a thief who strings together enough heists could bring in a pretty penny.

"There's an awful lot of metal theft going on and some people think they can make a lot of money off of it," Holm said.

Pintz said more than stolen or damaged metal is the concern that a cornered criminal could have attacked a neighbor - if only to escape.

The complex has reminders posted on the entryways to double-check that doors actually shut, and residents urge everyone else to be just as vigilant where they live.

"Take care of our neighbors," Holm said.

The cut pipes hook up to high pressure relief valves for the hot water heaters in the units. Residents have now hired a plumber to handle all the repairs.