Thieves target stores' A/C units

June 13, 2010 4:34:00 PM PDT
It's a cold crime in the vicious Texas heat: Crooks damage and steal high-priced air conditioners in northwest Harris County. Now several businesses are not able to keep cool, and they're worried about their belongings and potential customers.

Investigators say the thieves hit a strip center near FM 1960 and Jones on Saturday night. They even targeted the security system. The coil is what the thieves are after, and they destroyed at least five A/C units to get their hands on it.

Mike Frierson walked into an unbearably hot furniture store Sunday morning.

"It was scorching hot," he said. "My customers aren't gonna wanna come in here and shop in that kinda heat, so it's affected my business."

Someone destroyed his A/C units.

"They've destroyed like 5, 6 units here on the property and it's like $7-8,000 a unit," Frierson said.

Overnight, thieves smashed in overhead lights, flipped surveillance cameras skyward and shut off power to the entire northwest Houston shopping center before stripping units of valuable coil.

"They take the coils and recycle them and make money," said Brent Alford with Service Tech GK Mechanical, "And there's no tracing the coils to where they came from."

Alford says it costs between $5,000 and $8,000 to repair one unit.

It's a pretty penny for Andrea Cirillo who runs A Parrot's Cove, a parrot shop, in the shopping center.

"Honestly, I just moved in here a month ago, and now I have this huge bill to fix my A/C units," Cirillo said.

Cirillo says the bigger problem isn't her bill but her birds.

"You can tell they're in trouble when they hold their wings out, because that's when you know they're overheating," Cirillo said.

As the sun sets, she hopes the animals can find respite from the heat, and she's considering caging in her next A/C for protection, just as she does with her beloved birds.

Experts say you're supposed to have a license to recycle coil, but that's not always enforced, which allows thieves to slip through the system.


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