Fake contractor 'raided red-zone homes'

A man posing as an earthquake contractor will appear in court tomorrow accused of raiding red-zoned houses in the hard-hit eastern suburbs of Christchurch.

The 43-year-old wore a high-visibility vest emblazoned with a contracting firm's name to steal hot water cylinders from the abandoned quake-damaged properties, according to police.

He faces 10 charges of burglary which are alleged to have occurred between January 7 and January 14 at properties in the suburbs of Avondale and Burwood.

Opportunistic thieves have targeted quake-hit homes since the first big shake of September 2010, which sparked the Canterbury earthquake sequence.

Hot water cylinders containing copper piping have been highly sought for their value to scrap metal dealers.

Within six weeks of the magnitude-7.1 jolt of September 4, 2010, more than 30 cylinder thefts were reported to Christchurch police.

The latest alleged offender, who will appear from custody at Christchurch District Court tomorrow, was arrested on January 14 after a nearby resident noticed his activities and phoned the police.

It is alleged the man removed the hot water cylinders along with tapware and other items in an attempt to recover scrap metal.

"This alleged offender has gone to considerable lengths to try to conceal his activities," said sergeant Dave Knowles of Papanui police.

"This included wearing a high-visibility vest with the name of a contracting firm on it, and hanging black material over a window at one address to block the view from the street."

Mr Knowles said all the houses the man is accused of stealing from are in red-zoned areas, abandoned and under Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority ownership.

The resident who reported the "suspicious activity" did the right thing, said Mr Knowles, who warned that a high-vis vest was "no guarantee that a contractor is genuine".

"If people have any doubts they should not hesitate to ask questions, check with the company and if they remain suspicious - contact police as soon as possible," he said.


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