published Friday, December 6th, 2013

Police in LaFayette, Ga., seek thieves who cut copper from air conditioners

  • photo
    Police in LaFayette, Ga., are searching for whoever stripped the copper wire out of several air conditioning units.
    Photo by WRCB-TV Channel 3 /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Police in LaFayette, Ga., are searching for whoever stripped the copper wire out of several air conditioning units.

LaFayette police Capt. Stacey Meeks said that on Nov. 29, at least two people burglarized a home, a church and a convenience store, all within a half-mile of each other.

They cut the copper wire out of a window unit at 212 Magnolia St., stripped the insides from an outdoor block unit at Pit Stop Food Stores No. 5 at 406 S. Chattanooga St., and stole an entire block unit outside the House of Prayer Church at 310 S. Chattanooga St.

Meeks did not know exactly how much copper the thieves took. But Corbin Timmerman, shop foreman and duct cleaning manager at Reliable Heating and Air Conditioning in Chattanooga, suspects that all the copper from a window unit and two outdoor block units could net a thief about $100 -- at the most.

"It's not worth stealing," he said. "I don't understand why people do it."

Meeks said detectives have a potential lead.

Earlier this week, an investigator found some copper at Joe's Recycling, a LaFayette scrapyard at 1716 N. Main St. The copper had paint on it that matched the paint at Pit Stop Food Services No. 5, and it appeared to have been severed with the type of wire cutters used in the crime last week.

If the cutters match, that could be a strong indication that the scrapyard's copper was stolen. Different types of cutters leave different marks on wire.

"It's like a fingerprint," Meeks said. "Every device leaves its unique print."

However, police don't know who sold the copper to the scrap-yard. By law, Joe's Recycling employees are supposed to keep a record of who they bought their metal from, but they didn't.

Detective Sgt. Wesley Steele and Detective Jennifer Jones are investigating, and anyone with information about the thefts is asked to call police at 706-639-1540.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com.

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