Today's post is a little unique, primarily because it's is actually going to be two posts. One from my perspective, and one from Wendy's perspective. We both wrote the posts without the other knowing, so we figured we should go ahead and just share both of them. We hope you enjoy, and that you'll check out the post covering Wendy's take on the situation.

Living in the city, or at least in a relatively urban area, there are certain inconveniences you know you're signing up for. Difficult parking, crowded spaces, close proximity to neighbors, noise, trash, rats, roaches, and crime are the things that immediately come to mind. Although Old Town Alexandria is an urban area, it has a small town feel that appeals to us, and it's much different than what you would normally see in the middle of Washington, DC. However, in order to benefit from the charms of "small town big city living," we still need to put up with many of those annoyances that come with big city living.

Though parking can be difficult, and the crowds in the spring can get a little maddening, we've not had any real problems with outright crime. Well...that is until yesterday.

While I was busy taking a few "after" photos of our kitchen, taking advantage of some good natural light in the time I was spending home sick from work, something odd caught my eye. For the last seven years I've looked out of the sun porch window and have seen our copper downspout where it runs down the side of the house. This is how it's looked since we installed these gutters back in 2005. 

Well, on this day I looked out of the side window and noticed that there was no downspout to be seen, just the base cast iron boot the downspout empties into.

Over the years I've watched as the downspout has weathered with age and taken on a nice deep patina. I seem to glance at the downspout just about every day. It's one of those things I look at and can say to myself "I installed that and it is still working great!" But when I noticed it was gone my first thought was actually "Oh no! The wind must have somehow knocked it out of its spot and it's damaged on the ground." This made no sense, given how hard it was to secure the downspout in its place, and I couldn't imagine it just falling out, but that's the only thing I could think of.

I went outside and looked on the ground expecting to see the downspout, but it was nowhere to be seen. That's when it hit me. Some jackass had come into our backyard the night before and stole our downspout right off of the wall. No, really, I'm 100% positive this is what happened!

I was shocked, I was angry, but a little part of me thought I had to be wrong. I walked out to the alley thinking maybe it had somehow fallen to the ground outside of our perimeter wall. Perhaps someone picked it up from the alley and moved it to our parking pad. Anything? Nope, nothing. I felt like I needed to make a chalk outline of the sad elbow piece on the ground.

I called the Alexandria Police to alert them to the theft, but it's not a critical item so I don't expect much there. I called Wendy to let her know what had happened, her first words "WHAT?!?!!...I feel so violated." I agree a little, but more than anything, I just feel pissed off. 

I'm pissed at myself for not being better about locking our back gate. That's going to change now, that's for sure.

I'm pissed I didn't do a better job installing the gutter by securing it in place with fasteners that would have been more difficult to simply remove. (Though this could have ended with the thief badly damaging the downspout and gutter and just leaving it all in place.)

I'm pissed the people or person who stole the downspout left the length of busted downspout I swapped out a few months ago (it was just sitting on the on the ground), but took the length that was installed! Seriously, Mr. Meth Head downspout thief, why couldn't you have just taken the junk off of the ground and left the stuff on the house?

I'm pissed that I just replaced the upper portion a few months ago and the fact that it was shiny is what probably drew person into the yard to steal it in the first place.

I'm pissed that they also popped off the two springs for the holders that I now have to replace. 

I'm pissed that they dented the upper elbow and now I have to fix that.

I'm pissed that I have to now spend $300 to order 20 more feet of downspout and install it when I have plenty of other stuff to do on the house.

I'm pissed there aren't better regulations at metal scrap yards to prevent this sort of garbage from running rampant.

And most of all, I'm pissed off that the meth head a-hole made off with a part of our house and probably cashed it in for something like $50 and it's going to impact the feelings of safety and security Wendy will feel in the house.

I've already placed an order for a replacement downspout, and I've also got a plan to bust anyone that may come back looking to repeat their little heist. But until then, this is the view we're left with. 

I just hope it doesn't rain to hard between now and when I can put something new in place. I think we'll need to go pick up a dryer hose to use as our downspout until the new copper downspout arrives.

Well, at least our friends have a good sense of humor to keep us smiling a bit. Shortly after I found the downspout was stolen I posted a message on facebook about it, and here is what my news feed looked like a few minutes later.

Do you see my friend, Brian's, post? I laughed.

I also learned that this is becoming somewhat to very common in the DC area. Okay DC, Virginia, Maryland, time to get your political butts in gear and put restrictions into place that will prevent this sort of thing in the future. A friend pointed out that St. Louis now requires a photo ID when turning metal in at a scrap yard, and they do not allow cash transactions. This starts with oversight at the level that's enabling the thefts. If there's no market for stolen copper, there are no thefts of copper items from homes or construction sites.

Have you ever had any vandalism or petty theft on your house? Perhaps a garden gnome walked off, or a porcelain deer mysteriously disappeared and you began receiving ransom notes? This isn't our very first item, but the last time someone tried to make off with one of our cast iron urns a few years ago, they thought better of trying to take the 200 pound item about one foot after they started.

Comments 44


10/17/2012 at 10:17 AM
That stinks. A family across the street from us was robbed just yesterday. Someone broke in through the back window.
We had a situation a few years ago where a neighbor was robbed. They found the guy and recovered the true valuables, which was good, but it sure made us uneasy.
10/17/2012 at 10:20 AM
I feel like crime is up all over the metro area. My car was broken into twice in 3 months, the first time for about $2 in pocket change and all my sheet music, and the second time, the theif took nothing. Las month we had a guy climb our fence and take my neighbor's bike....brand new....$600 bike. Gone.

When I talk to DC police, they just shrug their shoulders, talk about how when the economy is bad, theft rises. Also, it's about to get cold, so thieves are in full force until it's too cold out.

In any event, you might want to invest in some neighbor has one that points into the backyard/alley and is motion sensitive. Also, just putting signs up that say "area under surveillance" will be enough to scare away some theft. Motion sensitive lights help as well.

Sorry this happened -- I know how bad it feels. But at least it has only happened once since you've been in the area. Could be a lot worse!
The fact the police are more or less at a loss given their funding and the demographic in any major city is one of the most frustrating parts about it. It all falls to people to be good neighbors, and that just doesn't happen anymore.

You're right, crime is up, and it's all of this petty stuff that is really exploding.
10/17/2012 at 10:45 AM
Sadly, I've heard of this happening with copper, and I'm so sorry it happened to you. Our house was robbed in April. I totally understand that feeling of being violated.

Junkers are out and about, especially now. We recently had our metal trashcan stolen too and know that in our neighborhood, they will come up on your porch (!) if you have anything up there for them to take.

I personally would not order a copper replacement just because I wouldn't want to deal with the thought or threat of it getting taken again, but making it harder to take off will probably deter them enough to go to an easier target.

Things like this make me want to get an outside camera surveillance system!

I also really hope its a cold winter this year.

(PS Can you make a claim for the stolen pipe on your homeowner's insurance? That might help with the cost, but they also might raise your premium. Catch 22!)
It's amazing how brazen people are about stealing stuff. I'm sure people had to have seen the person and just didn't really think twice about it.

I hope it gets cold, and it happens sooner than later. Maybe we'll get some nice snow out of it too. Lower crime and snow days, everyone wins!
Karin K
10/17/2012 at 10:49 AM
Are you friggin kidding me???? I am so sorry. My nephew and his girlfriend were robbed at gunpoint not long ago in the backyard of their DC townhouse, getting their bikes out of their storage shed, in broad daylight! Be careful. Alex, put your techno skills to use and get at least a few dummy cameras mounted about. And I have a feeling the term "dummy" will inspire you to get real ones....hahaha.
I have a good friend who live in DC that had his car broken into, apartment robbed twice, and then was mugged at knife point within about 20 yards of his house all in a 5 month span. Talk about a bad run of things. He lived in a pretty decent area too.

I do think you may be right on the "dummy" camera. Both installing one and inspiring us to do something for real.
10/17/2012 at 10:52 AM
Ugh! I'm so sorry that this happened to you. Unfortunately, copper theft is a real problem. (I recently read a statistic that it costs the U.S. $1 billion a year!)

As a former architect, I was always aware that any copper elements were likely to be ripped right off a house. For this reason, I would never install copper on the outside of my own house - which is a shame because I love the way it looks. Sadly, the thief who stole your downspout now knows that you are likely to replace it and will probably be back. Yuck. People are such a-holes.

Stay safe!
You're right on with the copper. When we installed it seven years ago it wasn't a real issue. Now we really need to worry, but our gutter and roof are copper, and we need to make sure we're matching materials properly. I'm quite torn for what we should do. I'm trying to come up with an idea or two that might make it far more difficult to just remove it, and I think I have some thoughts. My concern is when the idiot comes back and then gets annoyed he can't just lift it, and instead damages the house.

But you're right, people are such a-holes.
10/17/2012 at 11:02 AM
We had replacement paint shaver blades stolen a few months go. We have an old mail slot in our door and packages are often too large to fit, so the mail people just leave them on our door step. They did turn up next to the dumpster at a nearby liquor store. Someone "noticed them" and just happened to see the billing slip next to them. We were happy to get them back, but we are looking into better security or our mail.

There have been a few other situations in our neighborhood, but we have a full security system, a dropcam with motion and sound detection, motion detection lights, exterior lights on timers, and a dog that flips out anytime anyone walks down our driveway or into the back yard.
10/17/2012 at 1:27 PM
How do you like the dropcam? How does it run -- on battery or plug? We wanted to mount it on our ceiling somewhere but I don't want to deal with cords.
10/17/2012 at 1:45 PM
Kelly, we love ours. It does need to be plugged into a regular power outlet but it connects to your wifi system for internet access.

The plug is a micro usb/power similar to a cellphone.
I'm looking at a few systems now, so I will have to check that out. I'd also love to install a camera to catch the people who let their dogs poop in the alley and don't clean it up.

We had a few things stolen from our stoop a while back, but now that we have our vestibule doors things tend to stay a bit more secure.
10/17/2012 at 11:17 AM
I always wonder whether anyone sees these people walking down the street in the middle of the night with a huge piece of pipe. How is that not suspicious! So sorry this happened. It's so common now.
They've got to. But my guess is they justify it as "Oh, it's probably just a worker," or they'd just rather not get involved.
10/17/2012 at 11:55 AM
We had a flower thief.They stole potted plants off our front door step, they came at night and dug out flowers from my front planter box. Last year every single red flower that I planted was dug up and stolen in the middle of the night. Seriously. From red tulips and petunias, to geraniums. EVERY SINGLE RED PLANT. I half gave up, and planted three small evergreen shrubs in my planter box last fall, and only a few seasonal annuals for color. That lasted for winter and spring, but one night this summer we went for a early evening walk with the dog and came back to find ALL THE SHRUBS MISSING...
We know who did it (we CSI'd it out) and the thief's know that we know...and so far more flower heists have occurred.
The thing is, I wasn't mad about the money the flowers cost (it was nothing close to your expensive downspout) I was just mad that I had walked my butt to the nursery, bought and lugged all those plants home, and planted and cared for them for weeks and months only for them to be pilfered. I would have gladly given the thief's $20 to buy their own damn plants if they were that hard up for flowers...
Karin K
10/17/2012 at 2:52 PM
Jeez! Good thing it wasn't me! I'd have obsessed over some kind of revenge for MONTHS. And probably done something stupid that would have landed ME in jail.
10/17/2012 at 3:13 PM
haha we have considered revenge! The most popular option was to steal BACK our shrubs and flowers and re-plant them in my planter box. But alas I don't have the balls for that!
I'd probably plan some elaborate thing to steal the flowers/plants from them, but place them elsewhere as to avoid confrontation and allow them to assume it was someone else. I hate confrontation, but I love passive aggression.
10/18/2012 at 1:50 PM
I would consider poisoning the plants they stole (or at the very least have my dog pee on them). I know, the plants didn't do anything wrong..... but there has to be a way to teach them a lesson. What an odd thing to steal!
10/17/2012 at 12:06 PM
Living in a small city doesn't help any. I've had two lawn mowers and a bike stolen out of my (privacy fenced) backyard, my house broken into TWICE and been mugged on my front porch. Sucks.

I'd seriously consider not replacing that downspout with copper. There are times historic accuracy just isn't compatible with today's reality. (Bet you never thought you'd hear ME say that.)
Well, that's good/bad to know. Good in the sense that we'd be looking at this sort of thing almost anywhere, bad since we can't just flee and expect all of our troubles to go away.

We're looking at all of our options for replacement, but it's going to be hard not to do copper (since the roof and gutter are all copper). I'm just annoyed that I had to replace the piece earlier in the summer, otherwise they wouldn't have paid the dark brown copper any attention since it doesn't stand out as shiny copper.
10/17/2012 at 12:06 PM
Grrrrr! That sucks. We're always sticklers about locking our car doors and my husband forgot to lock both our cars last Super Bowl Sunday. The next morning he noticed that both cars had been riffled through. Luckily, nothing of value was in either car though they did steal my husband's leather portfolio.
It's always that ONE time when you forget that you get taken. It's similar to that one time I left the new car window down, and then it rained for like three days. At least nothing of significant importance was taken/broken.
Mike Snyder
10/17/2012 at 12:20 PM
I cannot wait to see the post about your new full house security system with video surveillance that transmits to all of your mobile devices.
Karin K
10/17/2012 at 2:55 PM
Hahaha! I was thinking the same thing. I'll bet Alex has already downloaded at least three different product specs.
Let's just say...It's in the works ;-)
10/17/2012 at 1:18 PM
How awful! We live in Old Town and have had numerous packages stolen off our front stoop and flower pots as well. I am glad you reported it to the police. We reported even our petty stuff just so they have an idea of how much crime is happening in the area and hopefully will step up patrols.
I do think it's important to consistently let them know when things are not right, even if it's something small. Increased patrols would be great, but when they increase patrols other residents call and complain that they feel harassed. End result, nobody wins. It's all a bit frustrating.
10/17/2012 at 1:50 PM
Our home was burglarized on a Sunday afternoon in 1988 and the thieves took everything of value that they could sell easily. Adding insult to injury, they looked at but left our aging stereo system. Come on!
I actually thought of your break-in when this happened. Ours is not nearly as severe, but these things do stick with you over time, and it impacts how you feel. Does the fact that they left my ladder sitting in the back yard mean that I should maybe look at getting a new ladder? It's only logical. :-)
10/17/2012 at 1:52 PM
They photo ID and have security cameras at Massachusetts scrap yards. My BF does a lot of scrap through work and our old house but it sucks when people ruin it for everyone honest!
I wonder what the actual regulations are here in the DC area. I need to look it up. Does anyone reading this know?
10/17/2012 at 4:26 PM
Wait, is the guy in that video wearing a North Face jacket?! guess crime does pay...
As it usually does. It just comes at the expense of other people.
Tahroma Alligood
10/17/2012 at 4:55 PM
So sorry! Maybe it was that dragon-y guy on Grimm.
10/18/2012 at 12:51 PM
Horrible! I agree with Wendy for feeling violated.

For the record, the carriage step in front of our house on Prince Street was stolen. I know that is technically the City's property, but we were pretty upset about it nonetheless. I mean, who does that and how did no one see? At least it wasn't attached to our house, as was the case with your gutter.

Sorry for what happened to you guys.
Oh no, so sorry to hear that! I agree with you -- WHO DOES THAT??
10/22/2012 at 11:27 PM
My front porch furniture was stolen when the company we were renting from began advertising the property a few weeks before they were legally allowed to. Complaining to the management and submitting a BBB complaint only got a "sorry, but we're not responsible." I disagreed since that furniture had been outside on that porch for over a year just fine, but the management company refused to see the truth. We've since moved and are sure to tell the truth about them to anyone who asks!
Ugh, that just stinks! So sorry to hear about your furniture, and the battle with your former rental company!
12/12/2012 at 10:15 PM
One time our plastic santa went missing from the front lawn (our christmas decorations are oh so classy). We gave him up for stolen when our neighbour mentioned seeing our other neighbour take it from the end of our driveway (not where we left it!)

So we go ask the neighbour and he said he thought we were throwing it out and quickly gave santa back

Our only conclusion is that some teenagers took santa and put him in the road. A car came up and moved santa to the curb so no one would hit him.

Now santa spends the winter securing padlocked to the porch :)
9/10/2013 at 1:38 PM
Hello, new reader here! Unfortunately in our area and city anything copper and outside is at high risk of being stolen. Two suggestions- if you want to wait out the copper boom with something else, you could replace with pvc pipe, spray painted copper color. Some of the metallic spray paints are quite good these days, and fooling a would-be thief would be satisfying! Also, I believe you can purchase a tarnisher to speed up the patina on your shiny portion.
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