CREATED Jun 29, 2012
Reporter: Kevin Keen
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The surveillance video shows the three men pull up, get out, lift an air conditioning unit, shove it in the truck bed and speed away. It all happens in about 30 seconds. The thieves are efficient because they've undoubtedly struck before. They're after valuable copper, committing an increasingly common crime to get their hands on it.
The footage came from a camera pointed at Benjamin Plumbing Supply’s back parking lot June 9.
9 On Your Side reporter Kevin Keen asked company president Mark Berman, “When you watch that tape of those three guys loading up your air conditioner, what goes through your mind?” “That they've done it before,” he answered.
The thieves had done some dirty work ahead of time and not visible on camera. They were in the parking lot earlier, snipping connection cables, busting bolts and even hauling away two other commercial-sized AC units.
Keen asked Berman, “Did you know this could've happened to you?” “We never thought about it,” he replied. “When you go back after it happened, you think, 'Yeah, that was crazy.' But when we put the air conditioners in, it was never a problem.”
Why a problem now? The high value of copper coils and piping inside in the units.
One air conditioning specialist told 9 On Your Side each unit can hold up to ten pounds of copper, although that amount can vary greatly depending on the model. Multiplying that weight times three units times the price of copper ($2.86 at one Tucson recycler), the thieves made about $85 stealing from Benjamin Plumbing Supply. The rest of the metal can also be sold for scrap, adding to the total.
A pretty penny for seconds of work, and thieves can strike many businesses and homes in a single night.
“If you're getting a couple hundred here and a couple hundred dollars here times 10 or 11, that's a pretty good night's pay,” said Brett Wright, president of D&H Air Conditioning, Tucson.
Wright said he'd replaced 15 stolen units this month. He said businesses, homes, employees, families, customers and insurance companies all end up paying up or losing comfort because of the all-too-common thefts.
Replacement units at Benjamin Plumbing Supply cost $9,000, most of which insurance covered. The company added cages to protect them, installed more lighting and warned neighboring businesses.
Staff want the thieves caught. They describe the vehicle as an early 90s GMC-brand truck with chrome rims, possibly forest green. If you know who the men in the video are or have information to share, call 88-CRIME.