SALISBURY, Md. - Tenderheart Early Learning Center houses one hundred children, five days a week.
When it's hot out, they need to use every bit of their four air conditioning units. But one August morning, two summers ago, Rebecca Culver walked outside and saw two empty concrete pads.
Thieves reportedly came at night and stole two full AC units.
"It was hot, it was very hot," Culver said. "It took us a full week [to get the units back in place]. We have babies from six weeks to seven-years-old, so it was pretty miserable."
This happened back in 2011. This year, Wicomico County sheriff's are seeing a larger-scale of thefts. Already, 18 heating, ventilation and air conditioning units, better known as HVAC units, have been stolen. If investigators even find the stolen units, sergeant David Owens says recognizing them is virtually impossible.
According to Owens, criminals are stripping out the copper and tin and taking them to scrap metal shops. Alarm companies and air conditioning businesses are working together to try to stop this crime, by installing fencing, moving units to rooftops or even putting in motion-light detectors, video cameras or alarm sensors.
"If someone tries to tamper with the unit, damage it or literally pick it up and haul it away, we immediately get an alarm and dispatch it to police," Alarm Engineering president Ron Boltz said.
Locally, the price of copper is $2.75 per pound. Owens says in most cases, criminals are only getting about $40-60. The crime itself cost owners of the Tenderheart building $8,000 just to bring in two new units.
"It's a great expense," said Owens. "Even if it's insured, it's still a great expense to people."
Culver calls the entire situation, "shocking, being a child care center, you know, someone taking the units from a child care center."
Owens says criminals are not targeting any particular business or home. They will go anywhere that is dark enough and away from any light. For such little money, the sheriff's office says they have good reason to believe that the thieves are using it to feed their drug addiction.
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