Copper is an incredibly useful and valuable material, as a result, it’s found in a number of applications that surround us everyday, and it’s also a popular target for thieves. An individual copper theft can amount to thousands of dollars in loss and damages, and thieves aren’t just going after industrial hardware like wiring and copper shims; they’re going after easy and plentiful targets like air conditioners.
In communities across the country, homeowners and officials are left to deal with copper wire and pipes ripped right out of buildings. Thieves target industrial areas, utility buildings, abandoned homes, offices, schools, and churches, as well as apartment and residential complexes. They leave costly damage and dangerous conditions in their wake: ranging from flooding, fire, electrocution, and often an expensive and complicated repair job. While these cases happen year-round, summer can be an easy time for copper thieves, as they’ll simply steel components from air conditioners or entire units.
Air conditioning units, large and small, do contain valuable copper, as well as other materials that can be scrapped for cash. Just a few recent cases serve as an example of how easy it is for thieves to strike and the problems that result. In Reading, PA, a thief targeted copper wire connecting an air conditioning unit to an apartment building. Many residents were then left to either install their own window units, sweat it out, or look for alternative housing while their building is repaired—which could take months.
In Montgomery, AL a thief struck a grocery and stole air conditioning units, amounting to thousands of dollars in damage and cost of repair. In Deklab County, GA, thieves hit a string of locations and ripped units directly from the property.
It would appear that the best thing communities can do to protect themselves is to be aware and be diligent in their security. Video surveillance may be a necessary step for locations with larger AC units, as thieves often strike late at night. It’s also important to check any outdoor units, even when they’re not regularly in use; thieves will target air conditioners year-round. If the public works with law enforcement, they can be successful in apprehending thieves before they strike again. Scrap metal buyers can also do their part to protect their community, by enforcing tough buying restrictions that require sellers to show ID and other proof of lawful sources of scrap. Some are even training employees to look for telltale signs that scrap is stolen.
Have copper thieves struck in your area? Is there more that communities can do to protect themselves as theft rises in the summer? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.