Churches Weather Copper Thieves, Insurance Concerns
One insurer says it may limit payouts on costly thefts.

Copper remains a hot commodity. On Thursday afternoon, one pound of the industrial metal was worth nearly $412, according to Bloomberg. And because of the metal's increased value, thieves see a prime opportunity to swipe copper from air conditioning units and home and commercial construction sites, then turn around and sell their spoils to scrap metal dealers for quick cash.

Churches remain a primary target.

For instance, Southern Mutual Church Insurance, South Carolina's largest insurer of churches, says it paid more than $707,000 in claims to 113 churches through April. In 2010, it paid $1.2 million to 174 churches for the entire year, according to The State.

Thieves hit one South Carolina church twice, causing more than $100,000 in damages. That church's insurer, unidentified in the article, stopped insuring it altogether, one of the church's leaders says.

Southern Mutual Church Insurance says the problem has grown so large that it may limit payouts on future coverages to any church that suffers damage from a copper theft and refuses to put protective measures in place.

A protective cage around an air conditioning unit is one such measure. Other steps can thwart thieves, according to this article, which also points out that rooftop heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units, gutters, pipes, and electrical wiring are also at risk:

Hinder Access

Thieves are opportunists. They want easy access, so they can get what they want quickly and escape without notice. By hindering access and making detection more likely, you can reduce your risk of becoming a victim.

  • Place a cage or fence around air conditioning units.
  • Secure the electrical power shut-off switch. Move the switch, if it's located near the air conditioning units.
  • Enclose church property with a secure fence.
  • Post "no trespassing" signs.
  • Remove ladders and other items offering easy access to rooftop HVAC units.
  • Replace copper downspouts with other materials.
  • Store vehicles inside locked garages or sheds. If that's not an option, have members drive vehicles home each night, so they're not left in parking lots.
  • Don't leave copper plumbing, gutters, or wiring on construction sites.

Improve the Likelihood of Detection

  • Increase lighting around HVAC units and places where thieves might hide.
  • Install alarms on HVAC units.
  • Use security cameras to monitor target areas.
  • Ask church members to drive past the church when they're in the neighborhood, looking for suspicious cars, people, or activity.
  • Invite church neighbors to call police if they notice unusual activity.
  • Have local police patrol your property regularly during evening and night hours.
  • Ask your local police or fire department if they'll do a free assessment and offer tips for improving your property's security.

For additional help on securing church property, be sure to check out these electronic training resources from

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