Why your air conditioner could be safer

December 4, 2008 8:53:38 PM PST
We heard the word recession this week concerning the state of our country's finances. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Apparently the bad economy, specifically the price of metal, is making some crooks think twice.

In economic crises we always hear that certain kinds of crime rises, well we found one that has significantly dropped and it means things like your air conditioning unit, your phone lines may be a bit safer.

The cage around the air conditioning unit at First Baptist Church of Sheldon is like a fortress.

"We put the cables in and welded them closed," said Pastor Robert Pitts.

They don't want to become a victim again.

"It was so hot I could have almost preached on hell realistically," the pastor told us.

Two years ago someone stole the A/C for the metal inside and tested Pastor Pitts and the church.

"We're on a real tight budget here and something like that you wonder if you're going to make it or not," he said.

With help from a local air conditioning company, they replaced the expensive unit. Had it been now, it may not have been a target at all.

The weak economy has slashed demand for metal used in pipes and wires so metal prices are way down. The price of copper has fallen by almost 60% since July. It's bad news for scrap metal dealers like Dennis Laviage.

"The prices are bad," he told us. "Not the worst I've ever seen but for all commodities to be down like they are, is the worst I've ever seen."

But it's good news for potential victims.

According to Houston police, in July and August when metal prices were still high, there were an average of 250 reported metal thefts per month. In September the average dropped to 150. Last month there were a mere 84. Police attribute the drastic drop both to good policing and tougher laws but also to those tumbling prices. Now the benefit they say isn't worth the risk.

Two years ago, the thief that stole the church's unit likely got about $1,000 for the copper inside. Today it's worth about $400. Pastor Pitts doesn't rejoice in Dennis Laviage's loss.

But he does see a silver lining.

"I guess you can be blessed sometimes in the middle of hurting you know," Pastor Pitts said.

Dennis Laviage the scrap metal dealer says he is not paying for tin or iron right now because prices are so low. He thinks 35% of the area's scarp metal businesses will go out of business because of these low metal prices. He plans to just sit on some of his material until he can get the price he wants.

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