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 firstname.lastname@example.org