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Copper Thieves Don't Steal Tulsa Congregation's Spirit

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Copper thieves stole two air conditioning units at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Tulsa last week. Copper thieves stole two air conditioning units at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Tulsa last week.
Copper theft has been deterred in recent years because of regulations put on sellers, which require them to have a bill of sale or proof that they are part of a business. Copper theft has been deterred in recent years because of regulations put on sellers, which require them to have a bill of sale or proof that they are part of a business.

Copper thieves stole two air conditioning units at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Tulsa last week.

The units have since been replaced, but the church is still figuring out how to cover the cost.

"It was warm in here," pastor Ann Lamar said. "It was stifling in here."

Just at the temperatures climbed into the triple digits, two air conditioning units -- worth about $5,000 -- were stolen from St. Andrews Presbyterian church in Tulsa.

"I thought, "‘Oh, how are we going to pay for this?'" she said. "Even though we don't have services during the week, we still have actives that go on here."

In fact, the congregation of about 35 tends to a garden for the community, and hosts an outreach ministry program for at-risk youth in the area.

"It never occurs to [thieves] that there's somebody on the other end of it."

Ralph Casteel is a metal buyer with SIMS metal in Tulsa, and says the price of copper is actually down right now.

Copper theft has been deterred in recent years because of regulations put on sellers, which require them to have a bill of sale or proof that they are part of a business, Casteel said.

There's not much to keep the thieves away, but a common-sense approach could go a long way.

"About all you can do is keep your lights on, motion lights..." he said. "Don't leave your stuff outside, don't leave it piled up."

Casteel said you can also take steps to help catch the criminals later on.

"Get a picture of it, because we can compare that picture to the material that comes through," he said. "We will check them out, we take their ID, and we will get them. …We will call the police, and they will come down here."

Lamar said, during the robbery, the thieves actually overlooked a box full of copper wire. The congregation also put up a fence to block the view from the street and added locks to the back gate.

Despite the challenge to come up with the money, Lamar said she isn't going to let it discourage the church's message.

"I would invite [the thieves] here, to experience what we do here and meet some of the people."

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