AC units targeted for copper

Thieves look­ing to cash in on high met­al prices have been walk­ing away with cop­per down­spouts, iron man­hole cov­ers, brass mail­boxes and even bronze plaques from vet­er­ans’ graves.

Add to that list: the cop­per guts of res­id­en­tial cent­ral air units.

Po­lice said last week that cop­per tubing was taken from in­side three units on the 6800 block of Walk­er St. in Ta­cony on Dec. 1. No one has been ar­res­ted in the thefts.

Janice Hall, who has lived on the block for 28 years, was one of the vic­tims. She’s not sure what fix­ing her cent­ral air unit will cost her, and she’s not go­ing to both­er to get the work done right away.

“I don’t in­tend to get it re­placed or fixed un­til the spring be­cause I don’t want to get ripped off again.”

And then, she said, she’s go­ing to make sure the unit is se­cure enough that someone can’t do the same kind of dam­age again.

For sev­er­al years, po­lice have been warn­ing res­id­ents how vul­ner­able they are to thieves bold enough to swipe even metals that are at­tached to houses. Cop­per down­spouts on older homes have proved easy tar­gets, Capt. Frank Bach­may­er, then-com­mand­er of the 15th Po­lice Dis­trict, had said earli­er this year.

The North­east Times re­por­ted in May that thieves stole, then dumped, four 20-pound bronze mark­ers from vet­er­ans’ graves. Bronze was fetch­ing $1.70 per pound at that time. The profit the thieves might have real­ized is easy to cal­cu­late. Each 20-pound mark­er could have sold for $34. Mul­tiply that by four, and the res­ult is $136 — not really a lot of money when the risk of get­ting ar­res­ted is con­sidered.

The thieves who took the cop­per out of Hall’s and her neigh­bors’ cent­ral air units prob­ably caused more dam­age than they gained in profit.

Cop­per is at $2.80 a pound, said Justin Comer­ford, of­fice man­ager at S.D. Rich­man Sons, a Port Rich­mond metals deal­er. That’s not the all-time high for the met­al, but it’s pretty high, he said, adding there might just be a couple pounds of cop­per in each cent­ral air unit. Again, the arith­met­ic isn’t hard. Each unit might yield $6 to $8 in cop­per. Mul­tiply that by three, and the top res­ult is $25.

Most oth­er metals are nowhere near as valu­able as cop­per, which means the thieves who swipe iron, for ex­ample, are do­ing a lot of heavy lift­ing to get little re­turn.

If they worked as hard le­git­im­ately, Comer­ford said, “they’d prob­ably make something of them­selves.” ••

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or

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