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So far, the search has been in vane.

Sometime around Halloween, someone scaled the steep metal roof on top of Joyce Brodbeck's two-story barn and stole three weather vanes, three lightning rods and 100 feet of copper grounding wire, according to the homeowner.

Looking up at the big faded-red barn Wednesday afternoon in the 4300 block of North Sherman Street Extended, Brodbeck pointed out a dent in the barn's gutter about the width of a ladder and said it was pretty new. She suspects that's how the thieves got up on top of the barn, which she says is about 100 years old.

She was particularly incredulous about the apparent audacity of the theft. If Brodbeck's right about the dent, that means someone propped a long ladder up on the front of the barn, which is an easy and clear stone's throw from the relatively busy Route 24, climbed up, walked around on a precarious roof and jacked a bunch of items from all along the roof's peak before clambering back down, packing up and heading out.

"That's no fun going up there," she said, gazing up at the fairly sharply slanted roof.

"Who would look at it and say, 'There's something I can steal for money,'" she pondered. "It's just strange."

She said she wasn't quite sure when someone took the items, but her husband noticed they were gone when he was mowing the lawn Nov. 1.

Brodbeck said the barn used to be topped with three weather vanes, each a couple of feet across, in the shape of prancing horses. She was disturbed by their removal, but she said the more pressing issue was the theft of the lightning rods and grounding wire. Two nearby trees have been felled by lightning, she said, and the big barn's metal roof seems likely to draw more bolts.

The couple called police, who took the report but never came out and looked around, according to Brodbeck.

Police: Chief Bryan Rizzo, of the Northeastern Regional Police Department, which covers the East Manchester Township home, immediately remembered the report.

"It's not typical," he said, confirming that no one had been arrested and that there were no suspects in this case.

He said copper thefts are not unusual, but they're usually of copper piping or other items a little bit closer to ground level. Such thefts spiked during the depths of the economic downturn a few years ago, he said.

"People will even steal storm grates," he said.

Thefts have since returned to more normal levels, he said.

Rizzo said his department has investigated this theft report in the usual way they look into copper thefts: they check up on some "usual suspects" in terms of such thefts, and they get in touch with local scrap yards to see if anyone brought in anything resembling the stolen items.

State law requires scrap yards to get a photocopy of the driver's license of anyone selling them more than $100 in material.

Brodbeck said she plans on replacing the stolen items, though it may be tricky finding someone who specializes putting weather vanes up on top of century-old barns.

— Reach Sean Cotter at scotter@yorkdispatch.com.

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