FAIRFIELD — A Fairfield man’s plan to make some quick cash by selling stolen copper was dashed early Tuesday morning, when police said they caught him yanking copper piping out of a basement of a vacant home on Kelley Street.

Joshua Dean Elliott, 33, of Winter Street, was arrested shortly before 2 a.m. and charged with burglary, criminal mischief and criminal trespass.

According to Detective Sgt. Paul St. Amand, a neighbor called police around 1:43 a.m. Tuesday morning because he saw a light on in the basement of a house at 5 Kelley St.

The neighbor was concerned because he knew the house was vacant and for sale, St. Amand said.

When officers arrived, they found Elliott in the basement, tearing copper pipe out of the walls.

According to St. Amand, Elliot had a small pile of 3-foot-long pieces prepared to remove from the building and a couple of 10-foot to 12-foot lengths of pipe.


Elliott had forced his way into the house by breaking a padlock on the front door, St. Amand said.

The burglary charge is a class C felony that carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The other two charges are misdemeanors.

Copper theft is fairly common, although there seem to be fewer crimes when the copper price goes down, St. Amand said. Fairfield has four to five cases a year, he estimated.

People who are selling their home can prevent break-ins by installing a security alarm or asking their neighbors to keep an eye on their property, but houses that have been foreclosed on and are owned by the bank “don’t have that community contact” and are more susceptible to theft, St. Amand said.

Usually, stolen pipe is sold to scrapyards, where it is cut or broken up.

If police can get to a scrapyard before it begins to process the pipe, investigators can compare cut marks from the pipe and the building where it was taken for evidence, St. Amand said.

Police also often can track uncommon pipe sizes, such as the 1 1/2-inch to 2-inch pipe used in older homes, he said.

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 861-9239, or at:

[email protected]

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