High Copper Prices Send Thieves After Air Conditioners and Electrical Wiring - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

5/28/08

High Copper Prices Send Thieves After Air Conditioners and Electrical Wiring

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As the price of living goes up, some are finding ways to cut corners illegally. In fact, they could be stealing from you, without you knowing about it. Your air conditioning unit and home electrical wiring is the latest target of thieves. The connection is the copper inside. Police tell NewsChannel 11 copper theft is rising both in Lubbock and across the state of Texas.

"This is the copper wiring they're stealing," Lubbock Home Builder Trey Strong said.  Strong is almost done building one of his custom homes in this year's Parade of Homes.  However, due to an increase in copper theft Strong along with other homebuilders in the development hired a security guard.

"They'll just come out and start cutting out of walls and once they do that you have to redo the whole house," Strong said.

The security guard seems to have worked. However, Strong says that is not the case with many of his other projects.

"They're causing about $3000 to $4000 worth of damage for about $200. I'd be better leaving them a check," Strong said.

New homes are not the only target of copper thieves. Nearly two weeks ago someone took the copper piping connection to a freezer at Meals on Wheels.  

"We go outside into the alley and they said the copper pipes are missing off your building," Executive Director Lorrie Bellair said.

"The price of scrap copper metal is increasing and it's pretty much at an all time high," Sgt. Robert Ferguson said.  It's because of that top dollar, Sgt. Ferguson says reports of stolen air conditioner units, copper piping and electrical wiring are on the rise. Once stolen, thieves apparently break down the air conditioner and wiring for sale.

"One air conditioner coil is extremely similar and copper wire once you get the insulation off, it's just copper wire," Ferguson said

Ferguson says that makes copper theft a difficult crime to solve. However, lawmakers are fighting back. In September, copper theft became a State Jail Felony punishable up to five years. The Texas Department of Public Safety also now tracks who sells copper. Still, Ferguson says there are ways you can protect your property.

"Enclose it with something of a fence where it is not accessible to the theft," Ferguson added.

Today NewsChannel 11 called around and found the price of copper has gone up about a dollar a pound over the last year and half. We found prices up to $3.00 for top quality copper. We also learned under the new law you must present a valid ID to sell copper. Here in Lubbock, one scrap metal dealer says they also record the seller's vehicle make, model, and license plate due to state law.

Crime Prevention Tips for You and Your Home
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