STUART, Fla. - Stuart business owners are offering a $1,000 reward to help police nab thieves who stole about a dozen commercial air conditioners just days before Christmas.
Between 12 to 15 commercial air conditioners were reported stolen Dec. 21 to 26 from businesses along Old Dixie Highway in Stuart, records show.
"We're just hardworking people trying to earn a living," said Ted Tiemeyer, who is on the board of directors of Contractors Showcase on Decker Avenue, where six units were reported stolen on Christmas Day.
In Stuart, the first reported theft occurred overnight between Dec. 21 and Dec. 22, where thieves took three air conditioning units in the 1500 block of Southeast Decker Road along the railroad tracks near Old Dixie Highway.
The culprits returned during the overnight hours of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and took off with six more units — all from the Contractors Showcase.
On Christmas Day, an employee arrived at the business and found the wires to the electrical box that sends power to the units had been cut and the units pried off their bases. Nothing inside the buildings had been disturbed.
"They knew exactly what they wanted," Tiemeyer said.
Nearby, thieves attempted to steal a unit from a granite supply business but left it in the driveway, an incident report states.
Business owners describe the area as a light industrial/commercial corridor not known for having a lot of crime.
"It could happen to anyone," Tiemeyer said. "The thieves are brazen."
Police reports show air conditioners are valued between $2,000 to $5,000. But that's significantly less than the $40 to $50 thieves would get for scrapping the appliance for parts.
"If they take the copper out they get what? $40 to $50," Tiemeyer said. "Why would you risk grand theft for $40 to $50?"
About a year ago, the Stuart Police was investigating a similar theft spree targeting air conditioners, said Detective Heather Rothe, who is investigating the recent spree. Suspects in the former cases were arrested and charged, she said.
"I don't know why they are popping up again," Rothe said.
Also, the Martin County Sheriff's office is investigation several copper-related thefts. Officials are investigating if the thefts are related.
AIR CONDITIONER THEFTS
The Stuart Police Department and Martin County Sheriff's Office are investigating several air conditioner thefts.
Thieves are suspected of stealing the appliances and selling the parts for scrap.
Stuart business owners are offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of suspects.
Stuart Detective Heather Rothe suggests businesses protect their units by placing a lock on the unit's electrical box and making sure the unit is bolted to a concrete base.
"Anything people can do to slow thieves down will be a deterrent," she said.
Anyone with information about the thefts is asked to call Rothe at 772-220-3923 or Treasure Coast CrimeStoppers at 800-273-TIPS.
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