Commodity prices for copper have more than doubled in the past two years and the theft of copper continues to plague homeowners, businesses and churches as well as the insurance industry.
Russ Dubisky, spokesman for the South Carolina Insurance News Service says his industry is seeing an increase in claims as a result of this crime. He adds that it is not only expensive for the insurance companies, but also for the insured.
Criminals are making out with maybe a couple of hundred dollars worth of copper, but what we are having to replace is a unit that’s worth thousands of dollars. A lot of times the siding to your home or to your business is being damaged as well. That’s expensive for us. And really, the worst part is that the homeowner or the business owner is going to have to cover the deductible for those losses as well.
Dubisky continues, “If they take the copper from the condenser unit within the air conditioning system, then the entire unit’s going to have to be replaced, and these are expensive units. A lot of our churches have multiple units. A lot of our businesses have multiple units, so it’s an expensive problem.”
Dubisky says the insurance industry is encouraging homeowners and businesses to find ways to discourage thieves.
You can buy a steel or iron cage that fits right around the air conditioning unit and will help protect that. And a lot of insurance companies are offering discounts if you install one of those.
Dubisky says some people are painting the copper to make it less valuable at a scrap yard, and some people are using some copper substitutes. “But, most of the time when copper is needed, copper is used, and they’re just starting now to identify ways to protect that,” he says.
He says copper thieves are targeting transportation, communication and electricity, even networks critical to public safety. “The wires that are targeted have critical infrastructure needs for our state, like 911 service, says Dubisky.
New legislation making copper theft a felony instead of a misdemeanor was introduced Thursday in the South Carolina House by Minority Leader Harry Ott. The bill would stiffen penalties associated with stealing and illegally purchasing copper.