Archive for Sunday, August 15, 2010

Copper thieves targeting business air conditioning units

Jazzercise owner Brenda Wilch was stunned when thieves ripped away copper inside the air conditioner units Aug. 3 behind her business, 3115 W. Sixth St., leaving the back alleyway behind the building strewn with sheet metal pieces. Now the landlord has erected cages around all the units.

Jazzercise owner Brenda Wilch was stunned when thieves ripped away copper inside the air conditioner units Aug. 3 behind her business, 3115 W. Sixth St., leaving the back alleyway behind the building strewn with sheet metal pieces. Now the landlord has erected cages around all the units.

August 15, 2010


Copper theft leaving locals heated

Recent copper thefts have left some area residents and businesses without working air conditioning. The copper has been taken from air conditioning units. Six reports of copper theft have been filed since the end of July. Enlarge video

One of Brenda Wilch’s instructors at the Lawrence Jazzercise Center called her earlier this month. It was 87 degrees inside the fitness center and getting warmer as the summer heat promised to increase outside at the strip mall, 3115 W. Sixth St.

Wilch, who’s owned the business since July 1, asked her maintenance man to work on the two units in the alley.

“They arrived. We looked outside and realized that one unit had been completely dismantled,” Wilch said. “The other unit was in pieces.”

Thieves had been after the copper wire in the units. Since July 30, Lawrence police have taken reports of five other similar crimes.

Sgt. Matt Sarna, a Lawrence police spokesman, said officers see these types crimes periodically, and they tend to increase during summer. Police suspect a down economy is also a factor as suspects steal the copper wire and radiator units.

“They can sell them to a salvage yard. When times are down, they are getting pretty decent money out of them,” Sarna said.

Most of the time air conditioning thieves target commercial businesses or construction sites, typically at night. Police do check in with salvage yards when they notice a rash of thefts.

Roger Helm, of Lonnie’s Recycling, 501 Maple St. in North Lawrence, said his company is required by law to take identification and have customers sign in if they sell them more than $50 worth of copper.

He said this summer’s copper business had slowed down compared with a year ago.

On Friday, Lonnie’s Recycling was buying copper for about $2 per pound. He said the air condensers inside air conditioning units are worth 90 cents a pound. Those prices wouldn’t bring in much money for about two to three pounds of copper from an average unit outside a home.

But Helm said larger air conditioning units feature much more copper.

Sarna said the police department can do a security audit for businesses, and the department recommends installing security camera systems for surveillance. He also encouraged companies to put fencing around outside equipment if they can.

The Lawrence copper thefts in the last two weeks all affected businesses. In addition to the Jazzercise units discovered Aug. 3, the same thieves apparently went down the strip mall’s alley and stole an entire unit valued at $5,000 from Warrender Physical Therapy.

At Jazzercise, Wilch said police estimate the thieves took an estimated $200 worth of copper and did $8,000 in damage to the units.

Wilch’s landlord has taken some initiative and installed wooden crates around all of the units in the alley.

The thefts forced Wilch to close for a day and a half before reopening with the new units.

“It’s one thing to think about the hottest day of the year, and it’s bad luck your air conditioner goes out,” she said. “It’s quite another to realize they’re actually gone. Yes, the fact they took it for copper and not because they needed an air conditioner — we kind of just had to laugh because it was way too upsetting and too hot to get too wigged out about.”


50YearResident 7 years, 8 months ago

They wouldn't steal them if they couldn't sell them. Every person selling an outside AC unit should have to be fingerprinted and photographed.

Keith 7 years, 8 months ago

Check your photo caption, copper not cooper.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 7 years, 8 months ago

50 year is right.

If they could not sell the stuff, obviously taaken from a destroyed air conditioner unit, then they would not destroy air conditioner units for the copper.

They should be required to leave it at the salvage dealer while there is a check to see if there have been any thefts of copper in the community. A 24 hour waiting period before payment (at least) should be required before anything is bought at the salvage dealer.

But do the spineless, clueless city commissioners have the guts to do this??

christie 7 years, 8 months ago

That's not very Republican Jack...

I thought all you Tea Party and Republican types were against more government intervention into peoples lives.....

Brad Maestas 7 years, 8 months ago

Jazzercise? I always wondered how much actual jazz is played at these fitness franchises or if they're just cashing in on the once-hip 'Jazz' prefix with the hip-oblivious baby boomer set. Of course we now know that the simple-yet-enraging 'i' prefix (as in iJazzercise) has now taken its spot as the preferred naming convention to endlessly exploit. As I understand it, Jazzercise "program curators" prefer the timeless classics from the modern jazz era like "Single Ladies" and "My Humps" over the tired old saws such as "Take Five" and "Brilliant Corners." They cite a marked increase in cardio output and higher membership despite their adverse effects to the intellect. It's a clear case of the good outweighing the bad.

Regardless, these copper rats need to be thwarted. Perhaps human-sized traps can be set out with copper wiring as bait (unless, of course, the thieves are actual rats)? The traps would no doubt have to be of the humane, non-lethal sort and not of the lethal electrocution variety (although victimized business owners may disagree on that point). On a serious note, I'm just wondering how they are able to safely circumvent the high voltages or if they're just completely oblivious to it altogether. Either they know a bit about A/C units or they are unwitting numbskulls like the fellows that try to steal power lines with current still running through them.

igby 7 years, 8 months ago

There is a federal law about this already on the books. You have to prove that you vac'ed the system and disposed of the freon in compliance with federal law. The unit has to be in tact to sell it for scrap, I think. They wound have to melt it down into a pig to sell it.

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