Albany Police are investigating a string of stolen air conditioning units. APD's Theft Unit says they're seeing an increase in air conditioning unit thefts in vacant homes, rental units and apartments.
"They're going around stripping out the whole unit apart, taking it apart, taking the copper and the coil out of the units," says Sgt. Edward Heath.
The latest victim: St. Mary Missionary Baptist church. Pastor Derrick Mike went to the church Wednesday morning and noticed something missing.
"By some means the security system personnel did not get the signal but some of the neighbors overheard the siren. We knew that the fences had been cut and air conditioners had been removed," says Pastor Mike.
This isn't the first time St. Mary has been hit; it's the fourth time their air conditioning units were stolen.
Just this one incident will set them back $18,000 because their R-22 units are unavailable due to new federal regulations. Manufacturers are no longer making or servicing these units. They are switching to new R-410A units which are environmentally friendly. St. Mary must have the old R-22 units and parts taken completely taken out and replaced with new R410A units.
APD officials say for the pieces from the units stolen at St. Mary, suspects may only get $30.
"The percentage of how much the victim has to pay for air conditioners compared to how much the suspect actually gets, they're only getting five percent of the actual cost of the air conditioner when they turn it in," says APD Investigator Timothy Harvey.
The price tag for pastor could go up even more if he gets APD suggested security cameras.
"We encourage all the churches to put some type of camera system in. At least an alarm system. Now most air conditioning companies are going with alarm systems," says Heath.
Pastor Mike says the suspects didn't need to steal the units for money. From clothing to money or even assistance for habits, he says the church would've helped if they asked.
"Anything anyone wants or just needs, we would've been more than happy to help. To really take this, there was no call to do so," he says.
Pastor Mike says he is planning to install security cameras.State legislation says selling metal, like copper, valued at more than 500 dollars is punishable by a fine of 5,000 dollars and suspects could get up to five years in prison.