Guard Against Copper Thieves

Copper remains a popular target for thieves because of the metal's potential re-sale value.

Thieves steal anything containing copper in order to turn a quick profit. Air conditioning units, gutters, electrical wiring, pipes—all of these items are ripe for the picking. Even rooftop heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are being vandalized.

In the recent past, one Alabama church had its air conditioning units stolen twice in 10 days. Each time, thieves got about $300 worth of copper, and the church had to pay more than $3,000 for replacements. A church in Detroit, Michigan, spent more than $50,000 to replace heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units damaged by copper thieves.

In October 2009, thieves stole copper downspouts three times in a two-month span from a Massachusetts church. An article in the local paper said the value of scrap copper has diminished in recent months, but the article indicated copper thefts remain an option of choice, especially "to someone who's obviously desperate," the town's chief of detectives said.

Here are some practical steps to protect church property from copper thieves:

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

- Securing Church Property

- Preventing Crime on Church Property

- Safeguard Your Building Projects

This article first appeared on Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company's website.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."

Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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