Lisa Presley, district executive of the Heartland District, cautions congregations to be alert to prevent theft of copper items. She notes that a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Cincinnati lost three of its heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units recently to copper thieves.
Copper prices began a dramatic rise around 2002 as investors looked for safe commodities to invest in. Prices have fallen in recent months but are still well above the 2002 price. Stolen copper is, in many cases, easily resold, making it attractive to thieves.
Presley said, “These kinds of thefts are becoming epidemic. The thieves are clever and organized. Chances are they have checked out your patterns—so make sure that you vary things when you come and go. Think about lighting. Think about befriending your congregation’s neighbors so they will keep an eye on your property. Ask your local police to drive by from time to time. Ask them to do a survey of your property. Review all your safety and security options. Trim back trees and foliage that might hide thieves.”
Church Mutual, the company that insures a majority of UU congregations, has put out a copper alert, noting that many church buildings have lost copper downspouts, plumbing, and wiring in recent years. Thieves have posed as contractors or repair workers, stripping copper out of HVAC units in the middle of the day in some cases. When plumbing is thus damaged, free-flowing water can create even more problems.