Copper thieves targeting HVAC units
by Cris Ritchie
HAZARD – Copper thieves are at it again in Perry County, and this time they’re targeting HVAC systems.
The heating and cooling units at both the Perry County Health Department on Lovern Street and the Dawahare building on High Street, where The Hazard Herald’s office is located, were hit by thieves over the past week, doing damage estimated in the thousands of dollars. The thieves were apparently after copper tubing used in the units that likely would only fetch a few dollars if scrapped.
Dena Neace is the coordinator at the health department in Hazard and said the HVAC unit there was targeted by thieves on Dec. 20. The damage was discovered that morning, and while the theft did not knock out heat in the building, Neace said it will cost the taxpayer-funded department more than $2,700 to repair the damage, and it could actually be more.
“That’s to replace what is seen,” Neace said of the initial repair estimate. “Once they get started on it, it could be a lot more than that if they’ve damaged the unit.”
The theft at the Dawahare building on High Street was discovered Thursday afternoon, and these thefts seem to be somewhat out of the ordinary in the city, said Lt. Paul Campbell with the Hazard Police Department. Campbell said he can recall a theft two to three years ago at a former church where thieves stole metal from the HVAC unit, but at present it either isn’t a common occurrence or isn’t being reported to the police department as often.
But either way, it isn’t a new concept, Campbell said, adding that there may be steps property owners can take to help prevent these types of thefts, such as a video or other type of security system. That’s something Neace said the health department does not currently have, but officials are looking into.
“We’re probably going to have to have some kind of security system,” Neace said, noting that while the building is equipped with an alarm system in the event of a break-in, there isn’t a video system covering the grounds outside.
Campbell said it’s also important to report crimes quickly after they’re discovered so that authorities can get a quicker start on the investigation. He added that the frequency of metal thefts seem to pick up during the summer months.
Anyone with information about these latest thefts is urged to contact the Hazard Police Department at 606-436-2222.
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