Columbus safety officials say a monthlong moratorium has cooled the theft of air-conditioners and parts.

Columbus safety officials say a monthlong moratorium has cooled the theft of air-conditioners and parts.

With the cooperation of local scrap yards, the city declared the moratorium from April 12 through May 13.

Police data show a 69-percent reduction in reported air-conditioner thefts during the moratorium period. From Nov. 1 to April 11, police averaged 20.3 reports per week. During the moratorium, police averaged 6.25 reports per week.

Thieves are after the copper tubing inside air-conditioners, which can net anywhere from $30 to $50 per unit. At the time the moratorium was declared, the city said there were 400 reports of stolen air-conditioners throughout the city since November.

"The moratorium cut off the incentive of money is why I think it was successful," said George Speaks, deputy director of the Columbus Department of Public Safety. "There was no place for thieves to sell the (air-conditioner) scrap metal unless they went outside central Ohio."

While the moratorium is over, the fight isn't. The city and other organizations will continue their public-outreach campaign throughout the summer, Speaks said. They are encouraging residents and business owners to mark their units with ultraviolet ink markings, cut back trees and shrubs from air-conditioners, enclose the units in a metal cage or other secure device or link the units to a security system.

"We hope to maintain the momentum that we've had during the moratorium," he said.

Central Ohio Crime Stoppers will offer a total of $6,000 in reward money for the arrest and prosecution of scrap-metal thieves. Nationwide Insurance, a consortium of central Ohio scrap-metal facilities and Crime Stoppers each kicked in $2,000 for the effort.

In related news, the U.S. EPA announced that scrap-metal facilities must comply with clean-air laws that require the sellers of air-conditioners have the refrigerant properly removed before the units can be purchased.

Failure to do so can result in up to $37,500 in fines per day, per violation. Criminal charges and fines also are possible.

Cyclemet Inc., a recycler on the West Side, is still abiding by the moratorium, said its president, Bernie Senser.

"We're really trying to do the right thing," he said. "I think most of us are."

Established in 1984, the company started accepting steel products, such as refrigerators and air-conditioners, in the last few years. Senser said that Cyclemet is considering setting up a recovery system for refrigerants.

"We're looking into ways to recycle certain items, but doing it in an environmentally friendly way," he said. "Whether we pursue that, we don't know."