Thieves Continue To Target A/C Units At Tulsa Public Schools

Tuesday, July 13th 2010, 3:47 pm
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright and

TULSA, OK -- Tulsa Public Schools says the school district has again been targeted by criminals, vandalizing air conditioning units and stealing property.

"They climb on top of the unit and take out the chiller part, which contains the copper and the aluminum," said Stephen Colburn, an investigator with TPS campus police, "and then they probably sell it for scrap metal."

In a news release from the school district, the most recent thefts occurred at Burbank Academy at 202 South Lakewood, where five commercial units were targeted.

A few days before that, TPS police say six units were damaged at Sequoyah Elementary at 3441 East Archer.

At least four other schools have been hit, with the greatest loss at Burroughs Elementary School at 1924 North Cincinnati, where crooks made off with 13 entire A/C units.

7/10/2010 Related story: TPS: More Than $80,000 In Air Conditioning Equipment Stolen

The thieves are targeting both roof and ground units. Police say they're after copper and aluminum.

At Burroughs Elementary they ripped one from its foundation and took off with the entire thing.

It's one of at least six schools targeted by a what police believe is the same couple of thieves.  Their MO during the Sequoyah theft was similar to last week's robbery at Burroughs, where the cold-hearted crooks made off with 13 units.

"There's no way they could have pulled this off all in one night or one day. So it had to have been done and calculated over time," Stephen Colburn of Tulsa Public Schools Campus Police.

"This is going to be a big problem if it isn't stopped pretty quick," he said.

Just like the schools, investigators are having a hard time keeping their cool. Stephen Colburn says each theft costs the district about thousands of dollars.

Given TPS's budget problems, the expense of replacing units is significant. And it's a high-risk, low-reward crime.

"The sad thing is those are about $8,000 units," Colburn said. "That's how much damage they're doing and they're probably getting $100 worth of copper out of the unit."

Colburn says campus cops will step up patrols at schools they think may be targeted next.         While it will be difficult to identify anyone in this video, he's confident there will be other opportunities.

"Instead of hoping they move on to something else, we're hoping that they get caught," said Stephen Colburn, TPS Campus Police.

Tulsa Public Schools isn't the only victim of air conditioner theft. Police say some area churches have also been hit.

TPS says the public is urged to contact Stephen Colburn at 630-9904 if they have any information, or call 911 if you witness a theft in progress.