Thieves stole two bronze plaques from St. Stanislaus Kostka Church on Sept. 9 — capping off a string of plaque thefts that left five Williamsburg and Greenpoint houses of worship and one park missing commemorative signs.
The crooks jacked the bronzes from the church between midnight and 6 am, ripping the signs — which are valued at $1,500 — from their stands and fleeing from the corner of Humboldt Street and Driggs Avenue.
“They wanted to make a few dollars, but to do that, they made the church look ugly,” said Father Joseph Szpilski. “I can’t believe they did so much damage.”
These thefts came days after crooks jacked a 9-11 plaque from St. Cecilia’s Church at the corner of Monitor and Herbert streets, and three plaques lauding World War II veterans from St. Francis of Paola Church on Conselyea Street, Mount Carmel Church on North Eighth Street, and Fidelity Memorial Park at Engert Avenue and Meeker and Monitor streets.
Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D–Williamsburg) attempted to nail down the metal thieves by drafting legislation last week that would make it a felony to knowingly possess a stolen memorial item.
“We want to punish those who would steal a memorial but we also want to deter them from doing it in the first place,” Lentol said in a statement. “We are making sure that the scrap metal dealers, who knowingly buy these beloved and clearly stolen goods, face a more severe punishment.”
But limiting the demand for stolen metal isn’t easy, especially when prices for once common metals like copper — which was worth about 80 cents per pound in 2003 — now nets about $4 per pound.
Worse, scrap experts say the goods often arrive at their shop in pieces, making it nearly impossible to determine whether or not shard is stolen.
“There are identification processes that are required to buy scrap off the street, but unfortunately with scrap, one piece looks that same as another,” an insider said. “There are some safeguards you can take, but in the end just have to be careful.”
Memorial plaques aren’t the only alloys that thieves are eyeing during this modern-day gold rush.
Sharon Street resident Anna Hunter thought she had seen the last of the neighborhood’s metal thieves when they stole four feet of copper piping from under her deck in April, but they returned on May 8 and tried to take off with her central air conditioning unit.
The crooks unbolted the giant AC and wheeled it on a handcart about halfway off her block — which is bounded by Morgan Avenue and Olive Street — before a neighbor spotted them. The thieves dumped the hefty cooler and ran.