HVAC thefts increase during holidays

Experts offer suggestions to avoid getting your air conditioner stolen


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Last December, someone stole the air conditioning units from Deland Missionary Baptist Church on Jacksonville's Westside. The crime cost the church thousands of dollars.

"Why would you destroy the property of the church just for a few dollars?" asked Pastor Gerome Thomas, when he was interviewed after he discovered what happened.

Experts say heating and air conditioning unit thefts to churches, businesses and homes happen year round, but seem to increase in frequency around the holiday months.

"It's that time of year where people become desperate, these A/C units are easy targets, they are easy to get," said Channel 4's Crime Analyst Ken Jefferson. "They become desperate, they want money. They're maybe not employed so they resort to stealing."

As the president of a local Heating and Air Company, Howard Services Inc., Scott Wilson's seen crooks steal A/Cs countless times.

"Some thieves are even more sophisticated where they actually have drill guns and battery-powered saws and they are just zipping through the units," said Wilson.

Wilson suggested installing motion detectors or flood lights near your unit, and he said if you're especially concerned, you can install a fence or cage around the unit. Some companies offer GPS monitoring, for those who really want to protect their investments.

This year, Jacksonville's Sheriff John Rutherford put a new law in effect which requires metal recyclers to get more information from the people who sell them metals, like aluminum and copper, from A/C units. Jefferson said it's a step in the right direction.

"It's really a great help to law enforcement now requiring they have those regulations," said Jefferson.

Wilson said he was still waiting to see the crime statistics, but he believes the new regulations are helping reduce thefts.

Channel 4 requested records on the number of thefts month by month from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Friday morning, but officers said the analysis would take some time to come back.