published Friday, August 12th, 2011

Copper thieves hit school, and us

It's disgusting that copper thieves -- who may be able to get only about $50 for the copper they stole from the air-conditioning system at East Lake Elementary School earlier this week -- did between $10,000 and $20,000 in damage to the system.

And about 400 students, plus teachers and staff, surely will be inconvenienced as they contend with 90-degree-plus temperatures in their classrooms until repair work can be done.

"Some people cut through the fence ... and tore out some copper in our chiller," said Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith.

Our schools and the taxpayers who support them have enough financial and other challenges without having to deal with thieves. But until repairs are made, students at the victimized school will be excused at 12:30 p.m.

In addition to the cost and inconvenience, there is anger that anyone would stoop to attacking a school and all of the local residents who seek to provide educational advantages for our young people.

Copper theft unfortunately is not uncommon. Along with the local report in Thursday's Times Free Press, there were news stories from Alabama and South Carolina about copper thefts from air-conditioning systems and telephone lines.

But the thieves need buyers. So prospective metal buyers should be alerted, and anyone who can be identified either selling or knowingly buying stolen copper should be severely prosecuted.

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