Copper Tubing Thieves Caught in the Act
Thieves cutting copper tubing from a two-story office building’s rooftop air conditioner early on a July morning quickly found themselves in jail – after a Sonitrol audio detection alarm system detected their footsteps and alerted Sunrise Police.
At 1:30 on a July morning, an audio monitor inside of medical equipment company Fiegert Endotech’s U.S. headquarters in Sunrise, Fla., relayed the sound of footsteps on the rooftop to Sonitrol’s central monitoring station. Sonitrol monitoring staff immediately notified Sunrise Police.
Knowing that this was a verified incident – not a false alarm -- police arrived at the office building in three minutes. When officers climbed to the roof, they found and arrested two suspects who were hiding behind the air conditioning unit. In the pair’s possession were copper tubing that had been cut from the unit, plus wire cutters and other burglary tools. The suspects had apparently climbed onto a neighboring roof and walked across a slab of wood to the office building’s roof.
Under a Florida law that took effect July 1, penalties for stealing copper and other metals just became tougher. “Law enforcement and industry are working together to curb the theft of copper and other metals from businesses, schools, churches and homes – crimes that have cost Floridians millions of dollars in the last few years,” said John Ray, III, president of Sonitrol of Fort Lauderdale.
“Often these crimes don’t require entering a building, so being able to detect the sounds burglars make when they attack exterior lighting or air conditioning units is a major advantage,” Ray said. “When thieves damage an AC unit to strip out the copper, the cost of repairing an AC unit can far outweigh the value of the stolen metal.”
Florida legislators and law enforcement have clearly made stopping metal theft a priority, Ray added. Verified audio and video intrusion detection systems protect a facility’s interior, perimeter and roof, he explained, and police typically respond faster when they know an incident is truly underway.
According to the Floridians for Copper and Metal Crime Prevention Coalition, which supported the new law, metal theft has both economic and safety impacts.
In South Florida and across the state, thieves steal copper wiring from utilities and telecommunications systems and a host of unguarded businesses. The new Florida law provides stiffer penalties for those convicted of metal thefts. It also requires recycling companies to document names, addresses and other details from people who sell them certain metals.