Thieves target heating, air units in Hillyard businesses - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Thieves target heating, air units in Hillyard businesses

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One of the businesses targeted by HVAC thieves. One of the businesses targeted by HVAC thieves.
SPOKANE, Wash. -

Business owners beware. Police say someone or some people are stealing parts of heating and air conditioning units from the Hillyard area and selling them for cash. 

Now recycling companies are working with law enforcement to try and make it less of a problem

What's being taken is pieces of copper and sometimes aluminum that are inside of the HVAC systems, but once dismantled it's difficult to tell where it came from. 

That's why when you go in to sell to a recycling facility there are some laws and practices in place to help eliminate those thefts or at least stop thieves from getting paid.

"It's about $1.72 a pound for that stuff [copper]," says Hap Ahlborn, owner of Action Recycling.   

So it certainly doesn't replace getting a job, and you won't get rich doing it, but HVAC parts thefts often occur because the units are located in a place that's not easily seen from the street.  In new construction that's been changing.

"The HVAC units on businesses are put either behind locked gates or on the roof so the access is limited," says Ahlborn.    

The thefts are limited, but not impossible.  In late September the HVAC system on the roof of now closed restaurant, Tony's Steer Inn was raided and parts were stolen. 

"It's not worth going to jail over," says Ahlborn.  "20, 25 dollars maybe."

That's about what recycling facilities pay out on average for copper and aluminum parts of HVAC systems.  Even if you get that much it's not without some safety measures in place.   

"We have to get ID from anybody that brings in aluminum or copper," Ahlborn tells KHQ.  "There's also a do not buy from list in Spokane county.  We have to check their name against the list even if they came in the day before because they might have been put on [the list] that morning.    

 The people responsible for the Steer Inn theft, Melissa Fetch and Benny Torrez were arrested at the scene.  In the instance that isn't the case and they get all the way to the recycling facilities there is an email chain in place that includes recycling centers and law enforcement from Montana to Portland, OR.  

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