BUTLER (KDKA) – Police in Butler County are investigating after several homes, which were for sale, were broken into.

For copper thieves from Colorado to Oklahoma to Vermont, there’s no place like home, and “For Sale” signs have become an invitation to steal.

“A lot of times when people leave, they make the house look vacant. They pull the curtains down, the power is off,” says Mark Twentier, the sales director for Howard Hanna in Butler.

“Within the two last weeks, we’ve had five burglaries reported,” Lt. Matthew Pearson, of the Butler Township Police, said. “Three of them were houses that were up for sale and two of them were just vacant houses.”

In Butler Township, homes on Whitestown Road, Bessemer Avenue, Ferguson and McQuistion, have been targeted. An equal number have been burglarized in Butler City.

“In all of our cases, they have actually shut off the main valve to the water supply and used some kind of cutter or snipper, and they’re actually been cutting the pipes out,” says Lt. Pearson.

One neighbor spotted a suspect at night.

“The only description we have is a heavier white male was startled, ran back to a newer Chevy vehicle,” Lt. Pearson said.

Some homeowners are replacing their stolen copper pipes with PVC or Trex plastic pipe.

Copper thefts are not only expensive to repair, it makes selling a home more difficult. A couple of thefts were discovered by realtors during open houses.

But there are ways to cut your losses, says realtor Mark Twentier.

“You have to make sure you’re covered with your homeowner’s insurance when you leave your house vacant,” he says.

Making thieves wonder if the home is still being lived-in is one way to avoid trouble, experts say.

Have lights on timers in various rooms, keep blinds, curtains or shades closed, install an alarm, make sure newspapers or junk mail is cleared, mow the lawn and ask neighbors to keep an eye out.

The going rate for copper is $2.90 a pound. The real frustration is that a thief stealing $30 worth of scrap can mean thousands of dollars in repair bills to a homeowner.

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