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Exclusive: NYC Thieves With A Taste For Wrought Iron Fences

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- Fences are supposed to help protect your home, but now they're being targeted by crooks.

CBS 2's Emily Smith has the exclusive story on a new wave of crime involving some Brooklyn homeowners' wrought iron fences.

They are a signature of many neighborhoods, most of them erected in the 1800s. So, residents along these tree-lined streets are outraged that someone has been stealing their wrought iron gates.

"We got back from a weekend away and we noticed they were gone," Fort Greene resident Van Hanos said.

"It's disturbing to find somebody has taken that from us," Fort Greene's Wayne Tripp added.

At least six gates have been stolen on Vanderbilt Avenue in Fort Greene over the past two weeks and another three within an eight-block radius, according to police. Tripp said his iron fence disappeared last week, calling it the most prized feature of his $2 million home.

"The gate was part of our property, part of the legacy of this block being historic," Tripp said.

One homeowner has bars on his windows. He said he doesn't take safety for granted but he never thought he'd need to protect his gate. In many cases they can be easily lifted.

"This one can be lifted and taken off like this, and they took them off," Frank Willingham said.

Willingham said he saw one neighbor's fence being stolen at 8 in the morning by two men in a white van.

"I looked at the van and I saw a lookout guy and I was curious but thought maybe the landlord asked them to fix them?" Willingham said.

At a scrap metal yard the gates are only worth about $12, but there's value in reselling them "as is" to get an original design. Tripp said some people will pay $500.

"I believe that whoever stole them from us will also try to resell them back," Tripp said.

Since the fences seem to be such a "hot" commodity these days, police are asking neighbors to be extra vigilant -- and for the first time in centuries people are looking for ways to lock down their piece of history.

Some homeowners plan to have a local craftsman try to replicate the missing iron fences. It could cost hundreds of dollars for each one.

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