Thieves steal scrap metal from homes and businesses to make a quick buck, which is an old story. But now it has a somewhat ominous twist.

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Toms River Police Chief Mike Mastronardy says quick drug money spurs some people to break into unoccupied dwellings to cut copper pipe and other scarp metal out of the construction.

Mastronardy says they will steal copper pipe, even metal from air conditioning units.

He says it was a concern after Hurricane Sandy, with the high number of damaged and unoccupied homes in his town, but they kept the lid on this type of crime.

Mastronardy tells Townsquare, "I think because of some of the proactive activities that we have done, such as license plate recognition, stopping motor vehicles in the area, doing house checks."

Pipe thieves severing natural gas lines

In Camden, copper thieves have even resorted to severing natural gas lines and live electrical conduit, endangering not only themselves, but nearby homes and residents. Camden firefighters say a vandal looking to cut out copper pipe broke into a foreclosed property and started a leak that began spewing into the neighborhood before it was controlled.

In many cases, scrap metal dealers in New Jersey are aware of the problem and have been more carefully scrutinizing those who show up with a load of pipe or other metal for sale.