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Copper Thieves Not Slowing Down


A jumbled pile of scrap copper wire

The nation’s copper theft epidemic continues, and thieves are not just targeting abandoned buildings. Here's a quick sample of institutional and commercial facilities that were recently vandalized:

In Arkansas, copper thieves caused $80,000 in damages to three radio stations on Sept. 19. They cut wires and pulled copper wires from the ground and building using a truck and cable, damaging the building and backup generator. The stations were off the air for about eight hours.

In Kansas, a copper thief destroyed an air conditioning unit at the Ag Hall at the Kansas Expocentre on Sept. 13. The thief also stole two air conditioning units serving an adjacent fire station. Replacement costs for the three units are about $60,000.

On Chicago's South Side, Holy Angels Catholic School  had to cancel classes twice in less than a week in late August due to thieves stealing about 360 feet of copper electrical wire, causing $18,000 in damages.

Copper is a nearly endlessly recyclable metal with many uses, so its resale value remains a strong motivator for theft. Facility managers can take steps to make their metal infrastructure a little less attractive, though. Consider these suggestions from the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries:

  • Enclose air conditioning units in cages attached to the mounting pads.
  • Padlock HVAC power disconnect boxes with a disc-type padlock, which are harder to cut with bolt cutters.
  • Put a monitor on an air conditioning unit's refrigerant pressure, line and load voltages that will send an alarm if wires are cut.
  • Keep vulnerable equipment well lit and under video surveillance.
  • Consider installing tracking devices on the targeted metals, especially If your facility is a repeat target. 


This Quick Read was submitted by Naomi Millán, senior editor, Building Operating Management

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