Copper theft, long the bane of contractors and other tradesmen who work with devices containing the valuable metal, is a growing concern in the HVAC industry. Take the recent crime spree in the greater Atlanta area that left several air-conditioning units at a Baptist church damaged.

Police arrested a suspect who was allegedly involved in stealing A/C units from an Atlanta-area Baptist church, Christopher Seward of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Early Tuesday morning, police apparently caught the suspect loading two air-conditioning units into a Ford Expedition. The units, each worth more than $10,000, were likely destined to be scrapped for their condensers, which are made of copper tubing.

The Atlanta Baptist church case is a familiar story that’s repeated at schools, industrial parks and other locations with large HVAC installations all over the country. According to Tulsa Worlds’ Phil Mulkins, for every $25 worth of scrap copper, the thieving does $3,000 damage to the devices.

But HVAC techs can take steps to protect their customers’ property. Several vendors offer security devices that techs can install to protect the expensive units and their valuable metal components. Thiele Heating & Air Condition, based out of Indianapolis, offers a security device it calls Warning Watchdog, which emits a wailing siren sound when a would-be thief tampers with an A/C unit’s condenser. Other vendors, such as A/C Cages and AC-Guard, meanwhile, market steel cages that entomb any device with copper cooling coils — from A/C units to vending machines and generators.

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