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Thieves damage church's A/C units

COVINGTON - A Covington church will have to repair its five air conditioning units after they were damaged by an unknown copper thief over the weekend, according to the Newton County Sheriff's Office.

Deputy James Stevens responded to the Starrsville United Methodist Church on Dixie Road Sunday morning after the church's treasury secretary noticed that the panels on the air conditioning units had been removed and the units themselves damaged, the deputy said in an incident report.

The victim said that the perpetrator cut the copper lines to the units and removed the screws from the panels.

Upon inspecting the units, Stevens said he discovered fingerprints, as well as a tool which could have been used to take the units apart beside the church.

The victim valued the five air conditioning units to be worth about $8,500.

According to Lt. Bill Watterson, spokesman for the NCSO, the suspect was unsuccessful in stealing any key components from the units, indicating that the person was apparently scared off before he could complete the theft.

Watterson said that authorities have seen a spike in the number of copper thefts over the past several weeks, which he said can probably be attributed to the Christmas shopping season getting under way.

"There's a lot of dangers that exist in disassembling air conditioning units, and I don't know what the appeal is," he said. "It just may be that it's quick, easy money."

To prevent future copper thefts, Watterson said that they are asking builders to engrave their line sets and air conditioning units with the addresses of the home or business where they are installed.

Authorities ask that anyone with information about this case call the NCSO at 678-625-1403. Tips can be given to the NCSO anonymously at 678-625-5007 or through the Web at www.newtonsheriffga.org and clicking on "anonymous tip line." Those who want a response from NCSO personnel should leave contact information.

Joel Griffin can be reached at joel.griffin@newtoncitizen.com.