Thieves steal irreplaceable vintage copper spouts from Sanford church

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SANFORD, Fla. - Police are investigating after thieves hit a new low and stole copper from two churches in Sanford.

"Smile thief, you're on camera" is a sign on the back door of Holy Cross Episcopal Church in downtown Sanford. It was put up to deter copper thieves who've struck six times in the past three weeks.

The thieves are targeting large copper water spouts, church officials said.

Father Rory Harris said he noticed a sixth spout disappeared last week, and his church wasn't the only target.

Police said thieves also hit First Baptist Church less than a block away. There, the copper tubing had been yanked out of the church's air conditioning units.

"They'll steal a few dollar pieces of copper tubing and cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to the equipment they're stealing from," said Lt. Jim McAuliffe.

The Holy Cross water spouts are from 1923, and church officials said they're irreplaceable.

The copper thieves will only get pennies compared to what the spouts are really worth, officials said.

Pure copper is going for $3 a pound at scrap yards. The church will likely have to pay thousands of dollars to replace the spouts with a newer aluminum product.

"It's a shame that these historical pieces are gone from our church," said Harris. "They're just part of the character of the church."

Harris said he hopes his new surveillance camera will do the job or at least keep them from striking again.

Church members have been going to local scrap yards to see if they can identify the stolen goods and find the person responsible. Anyone with information is asked to contact authorities.