Help Shut Down Copper Thievesby Nick LaFleur on Aug. 15, 2011, under Life
Copper thieves can wreak havoc on a home or business, dismantling air conditioning units, plumbing and more in hopes of getting scrap to sell. With the cost of scrap metal increasing, Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona warns consumers and business owners to take precautions.
Copper thieves have cost residents and businesses thousands of dollars and created an additional challenge for law enforcement, since stolen scrap metal is difficult to track.
The problem has become so rampant in Texas, the Legislature considered seven separate bills concerning copper theft in the 2011 Legislative Session. In 2007, the state began to require scrap metal dealers to register with the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Ray Brown, a detective in Texas with the Austin Police Department said copper thieves are difficult to stop because they choose easy targets, like unsecured air conditioning units, which are plentiful in Tucson.
“It’s too easy because sometimes they’ll do it during the day and people think, ‘well it’s just somebody working there,’” he said.
Brown said to be on the lookout for people near air conditioning units who have no identification or uniform.
“Don’t hesitate to call the police,” he said. “If you’re wrong, it’s OK. It’s no big deal. Just call and they can get somebody out there.”
BBB offers the following tips to avoid being victimized:
- Secure items where possible. Keep mobile items thieves could pilfer inside. For larger targets, like air conditioning units, keep the area fenced in and the fences locked.
- Make it difficult for thieves. Move dumpsters and ladders away from buildings to make it difficult for thieves to reach rooftop refrigeration units. Clear ground-level air conditioning equipment of underbrush so others can spot people attempting to work around the unit.
- Invest in security. Add motion sensing or continuous outdoor lighting around air conditioning units. Businesses should try to have someone on site at night to watch for thieves.
- Start a neighborhood watch. Get to know your neighbors and ask them to help keep watch. Never assume the person working on the neighbor’s air conditioner or gutters is a repairman. Check with the neighbors, then call the police.
- Mark materials. If materials are stolen, the best chance of identifying them is to make them stand out from other similar material that might come to a recycler legitimately. Marking items with bright paint, and etching an identification number at various places can make materials stand out.