The Anatomy of a Copper Theft NR12396pv

August 22, 2012

Los Angeles: Detectives arrested 28-year-old Edward Curtis Menhaffy after DNA tests on clothing, left behind at a North Hills copper theft, pointed to Menhaffy.

“Menhaffy’s story is the classic tale of drug addict who steals to maintain his habit,” said Lt. Paul Vernon, commanding officer of the Mission Detective Division.  “A decade ago, burglars like Menhaffy were rarely caught unless they left fingerprints behind.”

The home owner, who was refurbishing an unoccupied house in the 9500 block of Langdon Avenue, discovered new copper pipes cut away from the crawl space of the house in January of this year.  Detectives seized clothing left behind and placed it in the queue for DNA analysis.

“While property crimes understandably have a lower priority to violent crimes, detectives still submit certain cases for DNA analysis,” Lt. Vernon explained.  “The answer takes a little longer sometimes, but when it comes, we often have our suspect.”

Detectives have solved burglaries on DNA from items as small as a cigarette butt left at the scene.

The vast majority of property crimes go unsolved because they are the crimes where victims rarely see or know suspects.  “Property crimes are the real whodunits, but DNA is like having a genetic digital photograph after the fact,” Lt. Vernon added.  “We all leave a little bit of ourselves behind everywhere we go.  That’s especially true for criminals, even the careful ones.”

Menhaffy’s August-16 arrest at his home in Panorama City, less than 2 miles from the scene of the crime, presents the full anatomy of this copper theft:  drug addicted suspect, capering in close proximity to his home, on the hunt for an easy victim, entering an apparent unoccupied home, looking for a prize that can easily be resold for cash.  Detectives found more copper piping at Menhaffy’s home when he was arrested.  “Burglars never stop on one house and never get caught their first time,” Lt. Vernon said.

Menhaffy was charged with Grand Theft and his bail was set at $20,000.

Anyone with information on this crime is urged to call Detective Tim Kohl, Mission Burglary Unit, at 818-838-9977.  During weekends and off-hours, calls may be directed to a 24-hour toll free number at 1-877-LAPD24-7 (1-877-527-3247). Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477). Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone.  All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.”  Tipsters may also go to, click on "webtips" and follow the prompts.