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January 30, 2014
GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Someone this month gutted two vacant houses on Hillcrest of copper pipes and related hardware without neighbors being the wiser.

A Grosse Pointe Farms public safety officer likened the scrappers to hiding in plain sight; acting with such assurance that casual onlookers assumed nothing was wrong.

Both houses are in foreclosure and owned by Fannie Mae.

They're located side-by-side on the cul-de-sac in the 400 block of Hillcrest above Chalfonte. One house borders a wall separating the residential neighborhood from playfields at Mack and Moross.

"Crews often put work into bank-owned houses to resell them," said Detective John Walko. "I'm guessing this is the case with these scrappers. If someone did ask them, that's a relatively safe alibi."

Police learned of the thefts Friday, Jan. 24, from a real estate agent.

"(The agent) was intending on preparing the house for a showing and, when entering, discovered the lock box that was on the front door missing," said Officer Stephen Puckett, the initial investigator.

The agent also found the back door off its hinges and propped inside.

"He entered the house and discovered all the copper pipes and the hot water heater missing," Puckett said.

The agent said the crime occurred between Friday, Jan. 17 and Thursday, Jan. 23.

While seeking statements from neighbors, officers noticed the back door missing from a neighboring house.

Inside, the kitchen sink, cabinets, stove, refrigerator, furnace, duct work, hot water heater and pipes were gone.

A neighbor across the street outlined a lead.

"(She said) that this morning she observed an adult with a young girl at 426 Hillcrest," Puckett said. "There were inside and out of the home."

The pair drove a newer model crossover vehicle.

"(The witness) observed people in and out of the homes in the past week or so," Puckett said. "She assumed they were cleaning the homes."

Patrolmen are giving special attention to the rough half-dozen other vacant houses in the Farms.

"If people see something going on at a neighbor's house, call us," Walko said.

He also notified area agencies.

"If they nab someone, I'm going to try to tie in our B&Es," Walko said.

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