Heating and cooling units damaged or stolen from multiple Columbus businesses

Published: Mar. 3, 2023 at 1:10 PM EST
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Several Columbus businesses have been robbed multiple times, with thieves walking away with heating and air units. Now, one of those businesses is pushing for stricter laws to prevent it from continuing.

Authorities say people take the units for the copper inside, a hot commodity for many thieves nationwide. But, one local expert says that metal in HVAC units is not worth much.

Since December, HVAC units at numerous businesses in Columbus have been stolen or damaged.

“At least 30 that we are aware of in the area of Talbotton Road, North Avenue, Hamilton Road and portions of Machester Expressway,” said Marie Cliatt at Tree of Life Healthcare. It’s one of the many businesses impacted, with this location losing three HVAC units.

The units are used to heat or cool rooms.

Ismael Amin owns D ‘N A Heating & Air in Columbus, a company that repairs and replaces these units. He says the price to replace them is hefty.

“The cost can range from anywhere from four grand on up to 10, easily 12,” said Amin.

So why would anyone steal these? Ameen says though not worth much, thieves make money off the copper inside HVAC systems.

“It’s not that lucrative and they probably get per unit at the most maybe 100, 200 bucks,” Amin adds.

And he says stealing the units could take hours.

“They have to cut the copper pipes, Freon goes everywhere,” he explains.

Similar thefts have happened across the country with thieves going after catalytic converters, which contain valuable platinum metal. The devices are part of a car’s exhaust system and filter out harmful gases.

With local businesses now targets for their HVAC units, Marie Cliatt at Tree of Life Healthcare, is pushing for stricter laws to prevent it.

“Nothing that I have read or understand will really deter the buyer nor the seller when looking at these laws, codes and ordinances,” said Cliatt.

Current city code requires buyers of precious metals, like gold, silver or platinum to obtain a business license to sell those metals. Their application must be reviewed by Columbus Police BEFORE it is approved.

Amin says there are other things businesses can get in the meantime to protect themselves, like investing in security cameras or locking the units in cages.

“There’s a device we can put on their air conditioning equipment that gives an audible and they can kind of scare them,” said Amin.

Cliatt presented her ideas to Columbus City Council this week. We’ll keep you posted on whether or not they decide to update the city’s ordinate about selling precious metals.