Stolen A/C Units Cost Tulsa Public Schools Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dollars

Friday, August 20th 2010, 9:24 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OKLAHOMA -- A Green Country school district has turned up the heat on copper thieves snatching precious metal from school air conditioning units.

Tulsa Public Schools had to replace more than three dozen units. The district also installed new security to make sure schools don't get ripped off again.

It's a crime that nets the thieves a couple dollars per pound. But it cost the school district a couple thousand dollars per unit to replace.

The air conditioning units at Burroughs elementary are humming once again, cooling the school just in time for students to head back to class.

"They'll have operating units. Our maintenance job has really done a fantastic job of putting these things back in," Bob LaBass, Bond Director for Tulsa Public Schools, said.

A little over a month ago, Tulsa Public Schools was the victim of a copper caper: thieves striking half a dozen schools.

7/13/2010 Related Story: Thieves Continue To Target A/C Units At Tulsa Public Schools

This is some surveillance video of what investigators believe is someone stealing copper and aluminum from Sequoyah Elementary.

"There's no way they could have pulled this off all in one night or one day," Michelle Cullon, an administrator, said. "So it had to have been done and calculated over time."

And it took some time and quite a bit of cold hard cash for TPS to replace what thieves took.

"And it's cost us about $153,000 to replace these units, plus the labor to put them in," LaBass said. "We're working right up to the last minute to get em ready for school to start."

And these new units aren't up for grabs. The district has stepped up security, campus police is keeping an eye out for burglars, and investigators are monitoring scrap dealers.

"It's us and it's churches around," LaBass. "So everybody's gone through this. It's something that needs to be stopped."

Tulsa Public Schools says some of the units taken were only a couple of years old. And that's a $150,000 hit to a school budget, already strapped in these lean economic times.