Renovation robberies: Properties being targeted for tools and scrap metal

Jessica Satherley
Renovation robberies: Properties being targeted for tools and scrap metal
Properties under renovation are being targeted for tools and scrap metal

Looking at doing a renovation? Deterring thieves who target properties mid-renovation is one more thing to put on your list of must-dos. 

We spoke to Heidi whose family home was undergoing renovation in Epsom, Auckland, when it was first burgled in broad daylight in August.

Her husband was taking a break off-site between 10am and 2pm. 

“That first time the burglars took around $2,000 worth of gear,” Heidi said.  

“They took our tool belt and tools left on site as well as construction gear and some old clothing and gloves that we would wear while working on the house,” she said. 

Seventy-seven per cent of victim-based crimes in New Zealand are crimes against properties, with 75% of those being residential, according to a 2019 police report.  

Not just home break-ins, criminals also target vacant properties under construction in search of equipment and scrap metal. 

Once a house has been targeted, burglars often return. 

Heidi said renovation robbers continued to raid her property a total of five times within a week. 

“They were scrounging around for anything of value.  They started taking the copper wire plumbing, which led to flooding under the house. 

“They took the copper piping, the gas cylinder and the gutters.  They probably took between $2500 to $4000 worth of stuff in total,” Heidi said. 

The couple, who have two children and weren’t living at the house during renovation, installed a security system after the burglaries. 

Internal alarms and exterior video surveillance were installed, but a private investigator told them not to become complacent. 

“The investigator told me that the burglars will be back, now that we have been tagged as a target, despite the new security system,” she said. 

Thieves targeting copper to sell as scrap metal has been a growing trend not just in New Zealand, but worldwide, as its value rises. 

“Last year global demand for the red metal stood at 23.6 million tonnes, and by 2027, it’s projected to reach under 30 million tonnes, representing an average annual growth rate of about 2.6%,” Forbes.com says. 

“This phenomenal growth is attributed not just to the rise of middle-class consumers. It’s also thanks to our steady rotation into clean, renewable energy such as wind and solar – which is good news for copper demand going forward,” Forbes said. 

A Westpac spokesperson said that before homeowners go ahead with renovations, they should call their insurance provider to find out what is covered under their home policy. 

“If you are making any structural alterations or additions to your house, you might need Contract Works Insurance,” the spokesperson said.  

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