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Two charged with stealing copper pipes from vacant Greenfield home

GREENFIELD — Police have arrested a Palmer couple they allege were stealing copper pipes from a vacant home on Plantation Circle. The man was inside the house, while the woman waited in an SUV just down the street Friday morning, police said.

Justin Douglas and Andrea Velthouse, 26 and 27 respectively, were arraigned on charges of breaking and entering in the daytime to commit a felony, larceny over $250, possession of a burglarious instrument, malicious destruction of property over $250 and larceny of a license plate in Greenfield District Court on Friday.

Velthouse was also charged with possession of heroin, four counts of possession of a Class E substance, illegally attaching a license plate, driving an unregistered vehicle, driving an uninsured vehicle and driving with a license revoked for habitual vehicular offenses.

Both pleaded innocent to all charges and are being held on $250 cash bail. They are due back in court on Jan. 13.

Greenfield Police Chief Robert Haigh said a call came into the police station at about 9:20 a.m. from an alert neighbor who saw the man going in and out of the house, which has been foreclosed on and vacant, and thought it odd. The price of copper has risen dramatically recently, making wiring and pipes an attractive salvage commodity for thieves. Police recently charged some men with stealing copper wire from a windmill site in Florida.

Haigh said Greenfield officers responded in six police cruisers and surrounded the home.

“The (man) was still in the house,” said Haigh. “He was cutting up copper piping.”

Haigh said the man and woman were arrested without incident.

He said Class A and Class E drugs were found with the woman who was waiting. The drugs are still being analyzed.

Velthouse is charged with possession of heroin. Class E drugs are prescription drugs not mixed with narcotics.

A Massachusetts State Police cruiser also responded and the Franklin County sheriff’s office was called in.

Haigh said that was because his department, which currently does not have a police dog, wanted one there.

The town’s new police chief said there is some evidence that the man knew the house had been foreclosed on, so police believe the house was specifically targeted.

“We don’t believe this was a random, drive-by,” he said.

“We are looking into whether there are other homes that have been foreclosed on that have maybe had something like this happen recently,” said Haigh. “We’ll be checking with the bank that owns this house to see if there have been any similar problems.”

(This story has been corrected. In an earlier version, Velthouse's last name and age were incorrect.)

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