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THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Tips to prevent A/C theft
As part of a local initiative to curb air-conditioner thefts, Nationwide Insurance offered these tips for property owners:
Use ultraviolet ink to mark pipes in the air conditioner with your name and contact information. Police and metal dealers can read the markings with a black light.Remove exterior ladders and trim trees to reduce access to roof-mounted units.Enclose air conditioners in secure metal cages and anchor ground-level units to concrete pads.If possible, attach your alarm system to your air conditioner or have a contractor install an alarm.Cut back greenery and adjust outdoor lights to deny cover to thieves.
Metal prices soar as improving economy boosts demand (Jan. 19)Scrap thieves now taking entire air conditioners (Dec. 4, 2010)Mechanic gets 4 years in prison for air-conditioner thefts (Sep. 16, 2009)Local scrap-metal companies won’t buy air-conditioner parts for the next 30 days, giving property owners time to mark their units with invisible ink.
Columbus officials announced that plan yesterday as part of a continuing battle with thieves who steal metal that can be sold for cash. After the voluntary moratorium ends, scrap dealers will check for the markings when people bring in air-conditioner parts.
Thieves have stolen 437 air-conditioners since November, Columbus police say, and they expect more thefts to be reported as the weather warms up and people find that their units have been gutted for their copper over the winter.
“I want these criminals and these thieves to know: You cannot get away with stealing these air conditioners because we’re onto you,” Mayor Michael B. Coleman said during a news conference at a scrap dealership on Joyce Road yesterday.
In March, a police officer spotted a man dismantling the air-conditioner atop the Westland Cinema, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said.
Robert Cline, 32, was indicted last month on charges from that crime, which caused $15,000 in damage.
O’Brien’s office has indicted four other men in connection with the theft of 16 air conditioners. Two of those men, Carl Alff, 47, and James Shearer, 31, were indicted together yesterday on charges that they stole 11 air conditioners from apartment complexes in the city.
A 2007 Columbus law requires scrap dealers to pay for a $500 license and to report their metal purchases to police every day. The people selling the scrap to the dealers must provide identification and their thumbprints. They must show proof of ownership if they want to sell more than two appliances or one catalytic converter per day, and dealers must hold some items for 30 days.
The moratorium announced yesterday, in combination with encouraging property owners to mark their metal air-conditioner parts, will add to an effort that was already helping nab thieves, said Councilwoman Michelle M. Mills, who leads the council’s safety committee. The council plans no further legislation, she said.
The city’s law took effect during the last wave of metal thefts, when international prices for scrap metal were skyrocketing. In the meantime, the law, the recession and lower scrap-metal prices seemed to be making a dent in the problem. But as the economy began to revive last year and metal prices climbed again, scrap thieves got bolder.
In December, police said thieves were taking off with entire air-conditioning units, and the thefts never stopped.
“One report was for 25 units,” said Cmdr. Robert Meader.
Robert Patterson, deacon of Emmanuel Tabernacle Baptist Church, has endured the theft of four air conditioners at his church. Replacing them, adding secure cages and upgrading lights cost the church $20,000, he said.
Josh Joseph, an owner at I.H. Schlezinger Inc., the scrap dealership where Coleman and other officials announced the initiative, said his employees soon will be able tell immediately whether air-conditioner parts have been stolen.
If an ultraviolet light shows that they’re marked, employees will call the police.
In the meantime, Joseph isn’t sure what the 30-day moratorium, agreed to voluntarily by the holders of 19 scrap-metal licenses in Columbus and Franklin County, will do to his business.
“We are happy to be part of the solution to metals thefts,” he said.
Thursday, April 14, 2011 03:08 AMBy Doug Caruso
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