Thieves took as much as 3,000 pounds of copper wiring in what Salvation Army leaders said was a job that required several days and heavy, special equipment. The Salvation Army had planned to open the 40,00 square-foot building as a new women's and children's shelter in 2009.
"This was obviously a very professional job," said Ashley Delamar, director of operations and communications for the Salvation Army of Wake County.
The thieves took two commercial-sized air conditioning units, and copper wiring "all the way down to the smallest fittings on the hot-water heater has been removed," said Delamar.
They left behind clean-cut wire, empty panel boxes and severed cables.
"Whoever took advantage of the building knew what they were after and did a very thorough job," said Delamar.
The professional nature of the job did not surprise Raleigh police, who said that copper theft is on the rise with the metal going for nearly $3 a pound. The value of copper has skyrocketed 400 percent in the past two years, said police.
The theft at the Salvation Army building at 1821 Capital Boulevard likely netted the thieves "a $10,000 payday," said Delamar.
"It is something that occurs fairly frequently in Raleigh, just as it does in other areas. And when the price of copper is up, the crimes are likely to increase," said Jim Sughrue, a Raleigh Police Department public-information officer.
Salvation Army officials filed a police report this week but said they're not sure when the crime occurred since they bought the building in March.
"Unfortunately, we didn't stop in enough and check on it," said .
The opening, however, will likely be delayed because nearly all the wiring needs to be replaced, said officials. The charity is getting estimates from electricians.
"If we're buying wiring, we're not able to buy food," said Delamar.
Leaders said they regret most the cost to the community and the public.
"It adds to what we already have to ask the community for. Without the community, we don't exist. Without the community, obviously, now, we don't turn the lights on," said Delamar.