NEWPORT, Maine — An incident in which copper piping was ripped and stolen from a vacant downtown home illustrates two things to Newport police Chief Leonard Macdaid.

First, thieves will go to elaborate means and take brazen risks to make a dollar.

Second, if you’re leaving your home unattended for an extended period, let the local police force know.

“Anytime someone has a vacant home, we’d be glad to do checks on it,” Macdaid said.

A real estate agent discovered extensive damage to the home Thursday. Macdaid declined to identify the home’s address because it still is vacant. He said it has been empty for at least a month since it went on the market.

“There were neighbors all around, and no one saw or heard a thing,” Macdaid said. “For the price of metal, there was very extensive damage.”

The theft of metals isn’t uncommon, said Macdaid. In the Piscataquis County town of Atkinson this week, police discovered three burglarized homes, at least one of which had copper wire stolen from it, according to an article in Friday’s Bangor Daily News.

Brian Keyte, owner of Kennebec Metal Recycling in Skowhegan, said the price of copper is at an all-time high and is projected to rise more in the coming months. Keyte said he pays around $3 per pound for copper and could be paying $4 or more if the price continues to rise. Trying not to deal with thieves is a constant concern, he said, especially when the price of certain metals goes up.

“It’s unfortunate, because it’s probably a small group of 20 or 30 guys who are stealing,” Keyte said. “For the most part, the people I see are just good, hardworking people.”

Keyte said he has even had metal stolen from his business, which he was able to track down and recover after it had been sold to another metal recycler.

State law requires scrap metal dealers to put safeguards in place. Keyte said he keeps detailed records about those he buys metal from, including making photocopies of driver’s licenses, and he pays only by check. When he scraps cars, he collects titles and records vehicle identification numbers. Still, stolen items occasionally slip through.

“Sometimes, it’s hard to tell,” Keyte said. “We’re keeping even better records than we are required to keep. It just lets people know that we’re not willing to let them bring their stolen stuff to us.”

Macdaid said the investigation into the theft in Newport is continuing.

Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.