Copper wire thieves are targeting AC units

FRESNO, Calif.

Copper runs about $3.50 per pound and that just means copper wire theft is on the rise. Police say thieves are ripping apart AC units -- both on the ground and on rooftops -- all for the valuable metal.

The Christian Temple in Central Fresno is just one of the latest properties hit by copper wire thieves. Pastor Elias Loera says crooks broke two of his AC units three weeks ago. "They took the wiring, the electrical wiring. I mean they yanked on it, they pulled it out," said Loera.

While burglars probably made off with no more than $200 worth of copper, the price tag they left behind for Loera is far greater. "We have three estimates. The smallest one was $7,000. The biggest one was $12,000," said Loera.

Luckily, the insurance will cover the damage but once the AC units are replaced, Loera's thinking of forking out extra money to secure them with bars. "We have 5 or 6 other units on the ground. We're going to have to put cages on and it's not going to be cheap. It's like $400 dollars a cage," said Loera.

"This is the best bet if you get vandalized to put some type of burglary bars around a unit," said Steve Mendrin at Valley Air Conditioning & Repair, Inc. He says his shop gets an average of 3 calls per week from customers hit by copper wire thieves. "When they're going to be vandalizing a unit, they're going to be coming in and stealing all the copper that is coming from the compressor," said Mendrin.

Crooks hit the rooftop of a vacant property in Central Fresno last week. But before they ripped apart the entire AC unit, the thieves broke through the locked cage that was supposed to serve as a deterrent -- a clear message that these crooks are desperate and won't let anything get in their way. "There really is nothing a consumer can do other than doing this. If they're going to want to get into it, they're going to get into it," said Mendrin.

Fresno Police say burglars are primarily targeting commercial businesses in the late hours but homes are also being hit.

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