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      AC theft becoming a hot crime in Richland County

      RICHLAND COUNTY (WACH) -- An AC unit is a necessity for homeowners in the summer and a must-have for copper thieves.

      Air Conditioner theft is on the rise because the units contain copper.

      During the last six months, the Richland County Sheriff TMs Department has received more than 150 reports of stolen air conditioners and parts.

      Everybody loves business don TMt get me wrong, but I hate the way that we are having to get that business, says service administrator Jeff Hall of 2nd Wind Heating and Air.

      The company is replacing more air conditioners than ever before, according to Hall.

      I have gone from two a month to 80 a month."

      The same goes for Cool Care Heating and Air, where repairmen recently replaced five stolen AC units in one day.

      An air conditioner on average can cost a homeowner between $5,000 and $7,000, however, the copper inside, will get thieves an estimated $40.

      Not a lot at all," Hall adds. They are causing that much pain and suffering for that amount of money."

      It's not only AC units though. Thieves are looking for copper anywhere they can find it.

      In 2010, there were 536 cases of stolen copper that came into the sheriff's department. So far this year, there have been 307 incidents in total.

      Officials suggest some steps you can take to protect yourself:

      Install cameras Post No Trespassing signs Put up fencing or caging up Locking buildings securely at night Use florescent paint or engraving to personalize your copper Possibly consider putting your company TMs logo the copper Use DATA DOTS Join a Crime Watch Neighborhood Association Start a Crime Watch Neighborhood Association Take advantage of the free services from the Richland County Sheriff TMs Department Community Action Team

      If you notice any suspicious activity that may be related to copper theft, you're urged to call CrimeStoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC.