Copper Capers Chafe County Cops

Copper bandits continue to terrorize Fairfield County in and around the town of Winnsboro, destroying air conditioning units at four more sites last week and making off with thousands of dollars in copper components.

On Aug. 3, deputies arrived at a church in the 5200 block of Newberry Road where two air conditioning units had been taken apart, causing $6,000 in damage. Copper worth $3,000 had been taken from the units. A third air conditioner, worth approximately $3,000, had been taken from the property entirely.

Deputies were called to a business just off the northern end of the Highway 321 Bypass Aug. 4 where thieves had dismantled an air conditioning unit behind the building. Thieves had ripped the top off the unit, cut wires and stole copper worth $3,000.

Two days later, on Aug. 6, administrators at Richard Winn Academy on Old Chester Road discovered six air conditioning units outside the school had been taken apart and copper worth $18,000 stolen. The thieves apparently accessed the property by cutting their way through a chain link fence.

The thefts have now taken on epidemic proportions and the Sheriff’s Office said they have stepped up prevention measures. Still, the thefts present a difficult challenge to investigators. Because of the very nature of working with air conditioning units, the thieves are wearing gloves, and thus leaving no latent finger prints. The thefts also occur in areas that commonly receive a high amount of traffic, so foot prints and tire tracks are stamped out fairly quickly, if they ever existed at all. And the parts being stolen are impossible to trace. Once a copper coil comes out of an air conditioning unit, it is virtually identical to any other copper coil out of any other unit.

And copper thefts are not just the Sheriff Office’s problem. The Winnsboro Department of Public Safety is also beginning to see hits within the town limits. Officers were called to the offices of Fairfield Mental Health Services at 1073 Highway 321 Bypass Aug. 6 where, some time over the weekend, someone had taken apart three air conditioning units, removing copper pieces worth $10,000.

The Sheriff’s Office is asking the community to be on alert and report any suspicious activity, particularly near and around churches or other sites that stand unoccupied for several days out of the week.

Anyone with information linked to these crimes is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 635-4141 or the Winnsboro Department of Public Safety at 635-4511.