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by Ian Fortey
History has a strange love affair with thieves. On one hand, you really don’t want someone breaking into your house and stealing all of your pants. On the other, Hollywood makes like 10 Robin Hood movies every single year because he was a fun, heroic thief we can all respect. And maybe that’s the spirit that motivates us to be kind of impressed when we hear about people stealing things that have absolutely no business being stolen whatsoever.
Most people don’t give their roof a second thought. Well, roofers probably do, or people who have rainwater pouring into their living rooms. When it’s not functioning properly is usually when you care. Also when someone takes it. Did you know people take roofs, and specifically roofs attached to churches? Because they totally do.
As it turns out, a lot of churches have roofs that were made with a significant amount of lead, which we all know is both delicious and carries some scrap value (Editor’s note: Lead is not delicious). So that’s probably inconvenient -- you go to church one morning and there’s some trim missing from the roof and maybe you need to pass the collection plate around a second time to pay for it. Easy, right? Well, not always.
More. We’re still going to need more.
One church in Bedfordshire, England had its entire lead roof purloined by some nimble thieves, which maybe doesn’t sound too crazy until you learn that this is a massive building, and 20 metric tons of lead was stolen. And if you’re wondering how someone makes off with thousands and thousands of pounds of lead from a 14th century church, it apparently took place over a “prolonged period of time,” at least according to Officer Understatement of the Bedfordshire PD.
The same thing happened to a 16th century church in Suffolk, and another in West Yorkshire that ended up with a $2 million repair bill. Because when you remove the roof from a building, it tends to let the rain in and cause a lot of damage. Oh, and it’s not just lead, either -- a church in Liverpool was robbed of over 1700 square feet of copper roofing.
And these aren’t just weird-ass, isolated incidents -- four different churches in Leicestershire were hit in the span of only a few months. So if you’re thinking of opening your own church any time soon, maybe try vinyl flooring as a roofing material, or something derived from animal scat that can’t be resold as fertilizer.
Stealing rooftops certainly works for a certain kind of thief, but honestly, the real money’s in whole buildings. You know, if you can steal a whole building. And you can, if you try hard enough.
We’ve already talked about how an entire church in Russia was stolen, but apparently making off with buildings isn’t just a one-off thing. Some British thieves also tried their hand at the brick by brick play when they dressed up as workmen and just started disassembling a house like it was their job, stopping for lunch and everything. Neighbors even helped them collect errant roof tiles because you want to help a guy in a reflective vest no matter what he’s doing; that’s just science. Fortunately for the real homeowner, he actually saw them in action and had them arrested because come on, don’t steal stuff, guys. Especially a dude’s abode.
Even if it looks like this, still don’t steal it.
Another house in Oregon that was serving as sort of a weekend vacation home up and vanished after the owner went back to his full-time place. Another cabin in Texas met the same fate, as did one in Washington state. You can’t keep these cabins nailed down, man. Maybe they have wanderlust or something.
Millions of Honey Bees
You’ve probably spent most of your life hating bees until people told you they were dying off, and then you thought, “Wait, I love honey. Save the bees!” And now you’re not sure if the flying sting demons need you to care about them anymore or not. While pondering this dilemma, we’re assuming you never considered whether or not you could pull off a bee heist. Why would you? They’re bees. Maybe stick to stealing roofs like a normal person -- it’s safer.
California is up to its butt in almond trees because people love Almond Joy and Almondillos. But the trees don’t just pollinate themselves, so every year farmers have to import bees from across the country to help facilitate the process and ensure you have almond dust on your Christmas cookies. In fact, 2.5 million bee colonies (that’s two-thirds of all the commercial US honeybees), make the road trip to California every year to spend a few weeks making nuts.
One day in January of 2017, 488 boxes of bees were simply not there one morning. That meant that 50 million bees had just vanished overnight, courtesy of some thieves who apparently had no fear whatsoever of anaphylaxis.
Whereas most normal people would have been terrified.
They had come prepared, too, with single axle trucks and a forklift to load all of the boxes. It soon became clear that more bees had been stolen from other locations in the same heist: Some 700 boxes, give or take. That's $1 million worth of bees.
Months later, authorities arrested a man named Pavel Tveretinov when they found him in a ramshackle lot full of Frankensteined bee-keeping boxes that he’d stolen and retrofitted to be his own brand. The hives had been split apart and sloppily divided, but it was most of what had gone missing. Amazingly, when the real beekeepers were brought in to identify and salvage what they could, the stuff they couldn’t take back home that first day was stolen again during the night and had to be recovered later by law enforcement.
The value of the US wine and brandy market is more than $20 billion. That’s a whole lot of moms getting tipsy at dinner. It’s not hard to see, then, why criminals might want to dip their nefarious fingers in your Merlot. But some people have decided to get a little pre-emptive with their wine thefts, and they’ve taken to stealing not bottled wine, but grapes. Entire vineyards worth of grapes, in fact.
Vineyard thefts aren’t nearly as isolated as they seem like they should be. One vineyard in Germany lost 3,500 pounds of grapes when someone used a professional harvesting machine to steal the whole crop. The fact that it was located next to the parking lot of a supermarket was a bit baffling for authorities, but in all fairness, if you walk out of shop and see a machine harvesting grapes at the vineyard next door, you’re probably just going to assume it’s business as usual.
In France, thieves with a harvesting machine made off with 30 tons one night and 7 tons in another. In Virginia, 2.5 tons of grapes that would have led to about $50,000 worth of wine was snagged. That vineyard owner said it takes six to eight people approximately six hours to harvest a single crop, and he was robbed of six crops in one night, meaning this was a pretty in-depth operation.
“I distinctly remember there being way more grapes here.”
And once they’re gone, they’re gone; no one’s recovering grapes six months later. If that stuff is being used, it’s being used right away, and after it’s turned into wine it’s effectively untraceable. But hey, at least people are still getting blitzed, so that’s something, we guess.
We don’t know if there’s a misunderstanding of the Adopt-A-Highway program, but some people think they can just own a road like the fancy Road Barons of yore. While decent, law-abiding citizens are enjoying our roadways for their ability to be driven on and guiding us away from trees, ponds and Starbucks walls, there are a handful of shady types out there who see a road and need to make it their own.
If you’re in the market for a road the easiest option is an old-timey cobblestone street. That’s what some UK thieves did when they de-roaded 5,000 stones from a 100-yard stretch. The BBC said each cobble was worth up to £10, which is insane both for how many these guys got away with and because who’s paying that much for rocks? Regardless, that means this road was worth nearly $65,000, which is quite a chunk of change for something that probably had possum guts stuck to it.
One town in China managed to lose 800 meters of a concrete road in a single night after a man hired a crew to simply dig it up and drive it away. Which really makes us wonder just what kind of authority someone needs to call up some people and say, “Hey, so there’s this road that we need to go remove.” Is that ... do you seriously just need to ask?
“Hurry up, Bob! We have to go pick up a couple of parking lots after this.”
As impressive as it may be to steal a fully cobbled street or a half mile of asphalt, it’s not nearly as baffling as the Russian road theft from 2014 and 2015 that resulted in a solid 30 mile stretch disappearing. The concrete was simply broken into slabs and hauled away, ostensibly on what became a longer and longer dirt road over the life of the crime.
The theft was carried out by a Russian prison official and some cronies, and presumably a lot of labor. The dismantled road was then moved by a commercial company to wherever it is in Russia you go to sell slabs of reinforced concrete for profit.
Like this article? Check out “4 Historical Thieves We Just Can’t Bring Ourselves To Hate” and “5 Heists So Bizarre, They Sound Made Up”.
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