While temperatures are finally dropping, an unusual crime wave in Philadelphia’s western suburbs is heating up, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. Thieves are stealing air conditioners – more precisely, the copper tubing that makes up their internal components. Since late August, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of large commercial and residential units have been taken or damaged as criminals attempt to pilfer the metal and sell it for scrap.
With copper prices hovering around $3 a pound, a typical haul might net the thief $400 worth of metal but leave a $4,000 unit worthless. The crimes have occurred mostly at night, when most commercial buildings are unoccupied. Four commercial air conditioners were stolen from one shopping center. “We are looking at a $12,000 loss,” said Donna Torpey, general manager at Village Associates. Some states have enacted laws trying to break the cycle. In July, Arkansas started requiring metal sellers to list where they acquired scrap and whether they had been involved in any scrap-metal offenses. South Carolina established a scrap metal law requiring permits for both buyers and sellers.