Residents in the Levittown area are wondering what’s causing the recent increase in air conditioning condenser thefts this past holiday weekend. These crimes wreaked havoc on some local businesses and even a church. Reports say it’s related to drug addicts trying to get their hands on some quick cash.
We spoke to Mike of BK & Sons, a scrap metal business on Southampton Road in Philadelphia who agrees. “While 99% of our business is done with established companies who have proper, legal ownership of the scrap they trade in, we still see a fair number of walk-ins looking to scrap small amounts of metal and we have no way to know where they got it.”
Most scrap metal yards have policies requiring scrappers to show a current driver’s license for any metal worth over $100.00. Since the market price of copper is down to $2.65 a pound, these thieves are scoring between $30 and $40 for the core of the units, consequently, when they scrap the stolen goods they don’t have to produce identification!
Condenser thefts damage more than just the comfort of our homes and our peace of mind.
When thieves hastily disassemble the units in search of copper to sell for scrap, freon and other hazardous refrigerants are released into the air. No matter which side you fall on the argument about climate change or ozone depletion, these chemicals are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency under The Section 608 Refrigerant Recycling Act. Under the Act, the EPA is authorized to assess fines of up to $37,500 per day for any violation of these regulations. There’s reportedly a $10,000 reward for turning over evidence of anyone violating this regulation, however, the insiders we spoke to told us that the EPA is just too busy to follow-up on these minor violations.
According to a Levittown State Farm Insurance agent who wishes to remain anonymous, while her office has not experienced an increase in claims related to thefts of homeowner’s air conditioner condensers, she has seen an increase in homeowners who report being victimized by this latest craze in scrap-related theft. “The combination of the homeowner’s deductible and the hesitance to have such a minor claim on their record usually winds up causing the unfortunate homeowner to absorb the cost of system replacement.”
But there are steps you can take to protect yourself from this “perfect crime”, as we found out when we spoke to John Musser of local HVAC contractor, ECI Comfort.