Air conditioning thefts on the rise in Philadelphia

May 10, 2012 2:52:49 PM PDT
Four air condensers for air conditioning systems were stolen from behind stores in the Krewstown Shopping Center. Thieves are stealing them to sell for scrap.

Lisa Colflesh owns Pennypack Flowers in the Krewstown Shopping Center. She was one of about 19 home and business owners in Northeast Philadelphia who've had their air condensers swiped from right outside in recent months, often in broad daylight. The cost to replace her unit is about $3,000.

"As soon as we pulled up, I said to my fiance, 'They stole our air conditioner!'" she told Action News. "That much money is the difference between another employee, more supplies, upgraded equipment for the cooler. It's really devastating to be out that money."

Captain Joe Zaffino of the Philadelphia Police 7th District showed us a similar air condenser outside a home. He said the thieves are going after the units because of the copper and aluminum inside which they sell for scrap but the thieves don't make all that much.

"You're talking several thousand for the homeowner and $30 for the guy taking it to the scrap yard," Captain Zaffino said, "So that's all they're making is about $30."

It puts the criminals at risk of electrocution because they might need to cut a live wire. Some business owners started locking up the power supply boxes so the electricity can't be cut. Police did get reports that a white pickup truck could be involved. The stolen condensers would likely be in plain view.

"If you see a unit, that's clearly a condensing unit in the back of a pickup truck, or car, you need to call the police because chances are that unit is stolen," Zaffino said.

Meantime, Pennypack Flowers is busy getting ready for Mother's Day while the owner just prays mother nature keeps things cool.

"We've been keeping an eye on the temperature. We've been watching AccuWeather, keeping our fingers crossed and hoping it stays in the 70's with a breeze."

Police say putting a lock on the power box will help, but the best defense is to buy a cage that actually goes over the unit and bolts it to the ground. The cages can cost as much as $300, but when you consider replacing the unit could cost thousands, it might just be a sound investment.