City, county fight air conditioner thefts
On April 13, Mayor Michael B. Coleman was joined by Columbus City Council Member Michelle Mills, County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien and representatives from the Columbus Division of Police, the Institute of Scrap Metal Recycling Industries, Nationwide Insurance, and Emmanuel Tabernacle Baptist Church Apostolic Faith to announce a 30-day moratorium on the purchase of retail air conditioning units and parts at participating scrap yards.
In addition, following the 30-day moratorium, scrap yards will begin looking for invisible ink markings on all air conditioner units and parts prior to purchasing the scrap metal. This will aid the Columbus Division of Police in their enforcement efforts and help put thieves behind bars.
“As prices of metals continue to rise so does the frequency of thefts,” Coleman said. “While these thefts are not unique to Columbus, there are steps we can and will take to address this epidemic by working with our police, the county prosecutor’s office, the scrap metal industry.”
Prosecutor O’Brien also announced that the Franklin County Grand Jury recently returned several indictments against four individuals allegedly involved in the theft of air conditioner units valued at more than $42,000 throughout Franklin County. The charges range from Theft, Receiving Stolen Property, Vandalism, Breaking and Entering, and Possession of Criminal Tools.
“This partnership is allowing local police to coordinate law enforcement resources with the scrap industry to identify stolen items and return them to homeowners, churches, and businesses as fast as possible,” said Councilmember Michelle M. Mills, chair of the safety committee.
The Institute of Scrap Metal Recycling Industries and Nationwide Insurance encouraged churches, businesses and the public to protect their air conditioner units by marking them with invisible ink markings and offered tips to keep from becoming the next victim.
As part of a joint public outreach campaign, the Institute of Scrap Metal Recycling Industries purchased 2,000 invisible ink markers to distribute to local church and business owners.
Robert Patterson, First Deacon Emmanuel Tabernacle Baptist Church Apostolic Faith, shared his support for the public outreach campaign and felony indictments. His church has had multiple air conditioner units stolen over the last year and have spent nearly $20,000 replacing the units.
For months, local churches, business and home owners have been plagued with thefts of air conditioners which are being cut up and sold as scrap metal. Thieves often target larger, exterior units because there is significant copper contained in the coils.
On average, thieves may get $20 to $40 per coil but the cost to the owner and/or their insurer is thousands of dollars to replace the unit.
Since November of last year, the Columbus Division of Police has received more than 400 reports of stolen air conditioner units or parts.
As the weather warms up, police expect an increase in reports as home owners may not be aware that they have been victimized.
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