It was deja vu all over again recently for many of the merchants in the Beechcroft Centre on East Dublin-Granville Road.

It was deja vu all over again recently for many of the merchants in the Beechcroft Centre on East Dublin-Granville Road.

For the third time in recent years, thieves hit the air-conditioning units at many of the shops in the shopping center, located in one of the major commercial corridors in Northland.

On this occasion, according to Inkwell owner Dave Cooper, center maintenance employees have taken steps to protect the investments of tenants at least until spring, and perhaps beyond.

The copper piping at almost the entire shopping plaza in the 1900 block of East Dublin-Granville Road was reported stolen between 11 p.m. Feb. 24 and 4 a.m. Feb. 25, a Columbus Division of Police report said.

It was something like 15 of the 17 units, said Cooper, who added that officers spent most of the day going from store to store taking reports.

Almost exactly two years ago, 10 air-conditioning units were stolen from Beechcroft Centre stores, prompting police to ramp up spot-checks at local scrap yards.

Lt. Michael Woods, who was in charge of property crimes with the police department, told ThisWeek for a story published March 9, 2011, one problem with the theft of AC units in the winter is that sometimes the crimes aren't discovered until much later on.

In the Feb. 24 incident at Beechcroft Centre, Cooper said the thieves left pieces of rubber insulation and parts of the filters from the units scattered all over the parking lot.

He said last week that in light of the theft, an HVAC contractor took all the AC units for the stores and moved them into a vacant storefront, with the exception of the one for the Newsstand, which recently received a beer license and has refrigeration units that run pretty much all the time.

"Anybody could have come along and chopped the electrical lines and stolen the units pretty readily," he added. "And then this company has agreed to come out and make a deal with each one of us and move the units to the roof, and they'll do it all at once and give us a better price."

The hope is, Cooper said, that the units and their precious copper will at least be safer on the roof of the strip shopping center than located behind the individual stores.

The cost to install the units on the roof will be something like $1,000 for each tenant, versus $400 to put them back on the ground at the rear of the center, Cooper indicated.

The tenants are responsible for maintaining and replacing the individual air-conditioning units, he said.

Plaza Properties Inc. representatives had no comment about the theft of the copper or plans to move the AC units.