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Why Would Thieves Steal Air Conditioning Units?

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014 at 11:21 am

When late spring, early summer arrives here in Phoenix AZ, residents all over the valley start bracing themselves for the sweltering heat that usually comes with it. Phoenicians place a lot of value on their air conditioning, after all, it’s what keeps us sane when then temperatures climb over a 100 degrees. In fact, summer in Phoenix Arizona is like cold, harsh winters in Buffalo NY! People back east generally stay inside where it’s warm and cozy and don’t do much outside for at least 4-5 months. Here in the hot, summer heat, most of us don’t do too much outside unless you have a pool or it’s in the evening, which pretty much means we stay inside where it’s cool roughly for 5 months. Our air conditioners become our savior during these months.

So now that you know why air conditioners are so valuable to us living in the valley of the sun, were you aware of why thieves place so much value on them? Copper value has increased over the years. It’s becoming a hot commodity on the black market. Thieves are starting to not only target the copper coils within air conditioning units, but also the whole unit itself. Generally, criminals who remove the copper from an a/c unit will take it to a scrapyard in exchange for a few hundred dollars. Some are even selling the copper in bulk on the black market.

Neighborhoods and vacant rental homes are the more consistent target for air conditioner copper theft, but that doesn’t mean that thieves aren’t keeping an eye on other places too. As metal prices have steadily risen over the past 10 years, so has the problem of metal theft at both urban and rural plants. The cost to certain industries and the people they serve is profound. A single act of copper theft from one quarry may yield approximately $300-$400 for the thief, but results in over $100,000 in lost production as the plant is idled while awaiting new parts. This can be very costly for an industrial plant!

When copper is taken from a household or even a small business air conditioning unit, the costs to the owner can also be very expensive. Criminals are not professional air and heating technicians, so the removal of copper coils from the unit can be very damaging. Whether the homeowner or business owner has to pay for parts, damage to the unit, or even worse, having to replace it with a brand new unit, parts and labor costs can range from $1,000-$7000. This can get very expensive.

In a 2013 report, the National Insurance Crime Bureau took a close look at metal thefts. The report reviewed metal theft claims from Jan. 1, 2010, to Dec. 31, 2012. During that period, 33,775 insurance claims for the theft of copper, bronze, brass or aluminum were handled — 32,568 of them, or 96 percent, for copper alone. This shows a 36 percent increase in claims when compared with the 25,083 claims reported (between) Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2011.

There are ways people can help prevent the theft of air conditioning units. Police in local theft hot spots are letting residents know about the recent criminal activity around them as well as speaking with local business owners too. They are encouraging homeowners and business owners of vacant properties to check on the properties and possibly adding fencing around their air conditioning units, along with motion lights detectors to scare of potential thieves.

A new company called Vital Security offers a new product designed specifically for protecting air conditioner units. The Whip® is an excellent and professional choice for tamper-proof air conditioner alarm protection. It works by monitoring the pressure in the coil of the air conditioning unit. When the thieve attempts to cut the copper line, the pressure drops and the alarm is activated. This has also proved to be successful in decreasing the amount of copper theft cases reported. Whether you add fencing around your unit, install motion detectors, and purchase a product like The Whip, be sure and stay alert. Sometimes by being alert to criminal activity around your area can start sending a message to criminals that the local community is on to them and they better take their activities elsewhere.

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