Updated 07/16/12 – 5:27 p.m.
ROBBINS, Ill. (CBS) — For at least the fourth time in a week, thieves have targeted large air conditioning units in the south suburbs.
First, thieves dismantled the air conditioning unit at the public library in Robbins, then the air conditioners at a Robbins church and a preschool in nearby Blue Island were stripped of copper parts.
Now, WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports the Robbins offices of the non-profit Community and Economic Development Association has become the latest target of air conditioner thieves.
CEDA President and CEO Pat Doherty-Wildner said, sometime over the weekend, thieves stripped the copper coils from five rooftop air conditioning units.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports
“They actually opened up the gates up there and were able to open up then the air conditioning units and take out all the coils,” she said.
CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports the theft has left much of the building – including a day care center – without air conditioning when the Chicago area is facing back-to-back days of temperatures in the high 90s. Day care services have been cancelled until CEDA can get their cooling system working again.
CEDA helps administer the LIHEAP Summer Energy Assistance Program, which helps provide assistance in paying electric bills for low-income seniors, persons with disabilities, households with children under 5 years of age, and those with certain medical conditions that would be aggravated by extreme heat.
“We have a number of the residents that come and just sit when it’s this hot and just kind of relax,” Doherty-Wildner said.
Although the copper itself was worth only about $1,000, replacing the units could cost $10,000 each. CEDA is insured against the $50,000 loss but, Doherty-Wildner said it could take a while to replace the units. The non-profit was reviewing security at all its Cook County facilities to make sure nothing like this happens again.
Last week, thieves hit Horace Mann School in Blue Island, dismantling five air conditioners there, as well.
Allan McDonald, business manager for Cook county School District 130, said, “The copper they got out of all five units probably is not worth more than $1,000, and it’s going to cost upwards of $50,000 to replace these units.”
Back in Robbins, the thieves even stole from a church and the public library.
At St. Peter Catholic Church, a blue tarp now covers what remains of their rooftop air conditioner. And at the Robbins public library, the building no longer functions as the area’s only cooling center, after thieves dismantled its air conditioner last week.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports, the library had insurance, but just meeting the cost of the deductible is a strain for the library.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports
Luckily for the library, there’s help on the way, after two area contractors – D.M. Dykstra & Co. and GT Mechanical, Inc. – promised to donate two new rooftop units to replace the stolen air conditioner.
It will cost the contractors up to $12,000 each, but they said it’s worth it.
“If we can help out, that’s what we want to do,” GT Mechanical vice president Greg Koprowski said.
The library’s air conditioning could be back online as early as next week.
The biggest challenge for the victims might be figuring out how to protect the new air conditioning units from being stolen or dismantled again once they’re installed.