Copper Thefts Reach Epidemic Proportions in Oklahoma City

May 6, 2008

In one month alone, thieves stole the copper coils from more than 100 air conditioners in Oklahoma City, police said.

They then sell the material to recyclers for $3 to $4 a pound, leaving thousands of dollars in repair costs in their wake.

Lawmakers are considering legislation that would require all recyclers to maintain a log of who sells them copper and other metals. Those reports would be provided to police, if Senate Bill 1856 becomes law. It’s currently awaiting action in the Senate.

At Jamil’s Steakhouse on Lincoln, Greg Gawey initially thought a faulty circuit breaker kept his air conditioner from kicking on at his Oklahoma City restaurant on April 14.

Thieves had ripped apart three air-conditioning units for what might have been $100 in copper. It cost him more than $4,000 to repair the units.

“It’s just a bad, bad situation,” Gawey said.

Oklahoma City police Sgt. Marty Stupka, who investigates copper thefts, said in February alone thieves stole copper coils from 75 commercial air conditioning units and 42 residential units. Replacement costs were more than a half million dollars.

“They’re not taking the unit itself,” he said. “They’re tearing it up and taking the coil, and once they take the coil, the unit itself is worthless.”

Oklahoma City requires recyclers to keep detailed descriptions of items they buy and to hold metal for at least 14 days before reselling it.

“We’ve recently started enforcing that law,” Stupka said.

“I’ve been doing inspections of these places. Their record-keeping is horrendous. They just throw it in a box, and we have to sort through it.”

Information from: The Oklahoman,

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