Center sees two copper thefts in one week

Church leader frustrated

Wednesday, April 20, 2011 - 3:35pm

UPDATE: A group of church leaders are still angry over two separate vandalisms at a local community center. Now, law enforcement agencies and community leaders are banding together to keep the thefts from happening a third time.

Church leaders are asking for some accountability. "Place emphasis on those entities that are actually buying these materials. If we take away the market, we take away the acts of the theft," says one leader.

Each of the cool units will cost the church about $9,000 to replace. The city has decided to add security cameras and extra patrol units in that area for the time being.

BATON ROUGE, La (FOX44) — A string of copper thefts in the area hit one community center hard. Someone hit up their huge air conditioning units for copper wiring twice in just over a week.

Last week, one or more copper thieves destroyed three air conditioning units used to cool the S.E. Mackey Center. Sunday night, the thieves were back. Now, the pastor of the church that owns the center wants justice.

The people using the S.E. Mackey Center are trying to beat the heat after someone destroyed most of the machines used to cool their building.

"It's just shocking to know that you put money and energy and time into things like this, and then someone comes along and just tears it apart," says Richard Allmon, pastor of the Full Gospel United Pentecostal Church. His church built the community center five years ago. The thefts are the first of their kind since the center was built.

Allmon says someone broke through a gate housing several outside air conditioners late last night and gutted a unit. That brought the total of coolers to four. Now, Allmon worries they'll strike again.

"I'm just afraid if they were putting new units up today, they might come back tonight and take them before tomorrow," says Allmon.

He says each of the eight and a half ton coolers cost about $9,000. "I know that whatever they're getting for their copper, its nowhere close to what we're paying for these units to replace them," says Allmon.

The pastor says scrap metal buys are another part of the problem. "Anybody with common sense has to know that they're not finding that much copper lying around in ditches in Baton Rouge," he says.

He wants to see an increase in police patrol units in the area, but in the meantime, he says he's upping his security. "We're going to do just what we have to do to protect our property, and just keep moving forward."

Police say copper thefts have been on the rise over the last several years and that's because the payout for copper at scrap yards and recycling companies is higher than average right now.