The Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) has called on police to act, as copper thieves are now targeting downtown Port of Spain businesses, hacking away copper lines attached to air-conditioning units on rooftops.
In a statement on Thursday, DOMA said even after some businesses replaced and repaired stolen lines and tubes, thieves would return and steal them in less than 24 hours.
Recently an entire 24,000 BTU condenser unit was stolen from the compound of another business.
DOMA is now advising business owners to fence or partition the boundaries between the adjacent rooftops where access to their businesses is possible.
The should also adequately light rooftops where air-condition units and pumps are located, and instal vibration sensors on the units, connected to a monitored alarm. This is to provide an early warning of attack.
DOMA also advises businesses to encase copper lines, especially on larger units, in steel grills and cages to protect them from hacksaws and cutting implements.
It added, “Copper is fetching record high prices on the international market at this time. Buyers of copper do not seem to care where the copper is coming from and this has increased the risk of expensive repairs, damage and interruption of your operations that people’s property is being violated and vandalised.”
DOMA said it has written to the city corporation and is hoping the police can step in.
“Copper thieves do not stop until there is no copper left or until they are stopped by sensible protective actions.”
Contacted for comment, Scrap Iron Dealers Association president Allan Ferguson said Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon is to blame.
“I begged for them to temporarily shut down the copper industry. I told them we have to do something, and when people doing crimes like these and those who have the power still not doing anything, I will put full blame on her.”
He said his members are prepared to take the backlash and losses if the copper trade is stopped, as they feel thist might be the best way to deal with the increase in copper theft.
“As a leader, we have to make some strong decisions sometimes, especially if people are suffering from the actions of others posing (as) part of the association.”
He said the police also have to do their part, but “because there is a vibrant market, it cannot be stopped easily. We are not saying to shut down the whole industry, only the trade of copper.”
Police told Newsday they are aware of the problem and are looking at ways it can be dealt with.