MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- We rarely think about our air conditioners in the middle of winter, but Minneapolis police say we should.
Authorities say they've seen a rash of air conditioning unit thefts in the past week, centered in the Fourth Precinct of North Minneapolis.
Last week, Sadedora Rogers let her dogs out, and immediately knew someone had been in her backyard. Her air conditioning unit had been tampered with, and she knew why.
"Because you can get a pretty penny for copper nowadays," she said.
In five cases since late January, Minneapolis police say thieves stripped copper coils from the inside of the air conditioning units. Typically, the copper is sold at scrap metal recycling businesses. The market price of copper this week was approximately $3.90 a pound. Police say thieves may target air conditioning in the winter, because people don't normally think to check their units in the winter.
Rogers said the thieves didn't get all the way into her air conditioner – she thinks her dogs and security lights scared them away.
"Somebody is that close to your house, doing something they know they shouldn't be doing while you are in the house asleep. It's very scary," Rogers said.
Francisco Garcia-James says his family was also victimized by thieves. They found out when his father heard a loud noise overnight.
"In the morning, he checked and said we are not going to have cold air for summer; and summer gets really hot, so that sucks," Garcia-James said.
His family can't afford to replace the expensive unit right now, and they will suffer without cooling as summer comes.
It's not just homes that are being targeted. A business on Broadway put up a sign telling thieves not to bother, that the copper on their street was already stolen.
Police want neighborhoods to be on alert for suspicious activity and say, if possible, cover your unit with wrappings that are specifically for outdoor air conditioning units, available at local hardware stores. Some even come with secure locking devices.
Police also say light up the area around your air conditioning unit from dusk to dawn.
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