Copper thieves in Council Bluffs become more brazen


April 1st, 2013 by Ric Hanson

Authorities in Council Bluffs are asking residents to keep an eye out for unusual activity in areas where homes or businesses are vacant or foreclosed. Those are the types of places where thieves target air conditioning units for their copper tubing, and the thefts are happening in broad daylight. Officials told the Daily NonPareil, that 34 air conditioning units have been reported damaged or stolen, most of them in a concentrated area, since January 1st. Many of the thefts have occurred in the downtown area of Council Bluffs, from about 8th Street to Bluff Street, and 9th Avenue north, to West Broadway.

Other air conditioning units have been reported stolen from a four-plex on South First Street, and from the Council Bluffs Veterinary Clinic on Third Street. Vacant and foreclosed homes are often the prime target of thieves, who cause thousands of dollars in damage just to get $30 worth of copper tubing. Authorities say thieves show up in the middle of the day and look as though they are part of a construction crew. Other times, they will target poorly lit businesses and break down the a/c units at night. They’ve hit small businesses, and even churches in the area, according to police.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that theft of copper wire alone costs Americans $1 billion per year. Authorities say no one should be around a business when it is closed, or an abandoned or foreclosed property. Vigilant public reporting of unusual activity around those types of structures could help prevent copper thefts. Officials say some other keys to deterring copper thieves include making sure the area around air conditioning units is well lit, removing bushes or trees that block the view of air conditioners, and installing cyclone fencing.

Authorities say anyone seeing questionable activity, especially when it involves air conditioning units near vacant or foreclosed structures, should call 9-1-1. If possible, get a description of the people working around the unit, and a detailed vehicle description, including a license plate number.