ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–Just in time for a long, hot summer, scrap metal thieves are stealing copper from air conditioners with a level of sophistication one alderwoman compares to “organized crime.”
Alderwoman Donna Baringer (16th Ward) says thieves dressed in repairman uniforms are harvesting copper from rows of air conditioners at apartment complexes, and no one calls the police because they look official.
“They look like they’re there to repair the air conditioners,” Baringer said, “They stand there. They pull out the coils. The get their tool box out. They put them in the tool box, and they walk away.”
Working with a special police task force to craft legislation, Baringer warns “there won’t be any copper left in the city,” if something isn’t done to go after thieves who stole an estimated $4 million last year in scrap metal in the city.
Her proposal, which she plans to introduce Friday, May 20, would allow only freon-licensed professionals to sell air conditioner copper coils. The bill would also require scrap dealers to set up a computer data base similar to pawn shops to allow police to monitor who’s selling scrap.
Baringer says the copper theft problem appears to involve both low-level drug addicts, tearing down gutters to pay for their next fix, and well-organized professionals who know how to snatch copper from job sites.
“It’s not just on houses,” Baringer said, “A.T. and T. and Ameren U.E. are having spools of the different cables stolen out where they’re working on a job. It disappears.”
Baringer says she has also heard reports of thieves stealing un-opened boxes of copper roofing material from vacation homes in Lake of the Ozarks.
“It’s not just the city, it’s regional,” Baringer said.