Roof Security Is More Critical Than You Think

Posted by Rick Charney on September 3, 2019

As a property manager or owner, you often think about securing the building, common areas, storefronts, alleys and parking areas. There is one area that many overlook and it can be an expensive problem. What is it? Roof security.

The roof is where your expensive HVAC system and copper are often located. Would you believe thieves can take apart HVAC units and remove the copper coils in under 10 minutes?

Why Copper Theft Is a Growing Problem

The Department of Energy says the amount of copper stolen exceeds $1 billion every year. Thieves target copper metal because it goes for about $3 per pound. They also know they can steal it from the outside of a building or construction site. In other words, it's easier to access.

A National Insurance Crime Bureau report has found that businesses submitted more than 27,000 claims of copper theft between 2014 and 2016. The interesting thing is that the property damage from the process of stealing can cost much more than the value of the stolen metal. Unfortunately, all signs point to metal theft not letting up.

The High Cost of No Roof Protection

Two juveniles vandalized and damaged a shopping center's HVAC and refrigeration systems, CO2 tanks, and breaker boxes. What did the vandalism cost the shopping center? According to the CBS17 news story, they caused $42,000 worth of damage.

Initially, law enforcement did not identify the suspects. Fortunately, the shopping center had video monitoring that had captured the suspects' faces. An update on the story reports the police have identified the suspects.

The shopping center is paying far more than $42,000. Between the broken air conditioning and refrigeration systems, it is highly unlikely they can reopen for business quickly. It will take time to order the replacements and have them installed. Insurance also may be slow to review the case and make a payout.

The retail center's management has a bigger problem on its hands as its tenants will not be happy when they cannot do business. This could potentially lead to losing tenants and rental income.

It is possible to reduce and maybe deter the vandalism with the right live monitoring solution. When suspects are seen about to climb on the roof, it gives the trained security operator watching the monitors time to call the police and send them to the property. Effective video surveillance can help catch them as soon as they enter the property after-hours. Every moment counts.

A retail center security system can integrate an audio component in which a trained security operator issues a warning to the suspects. If this does not deter them, then the operator calls the police and stays on the line while keeping an eye on the vandals. The operator tracks the vandals' movements while informing of their location to law enforcement.

What Do Thieves Look for in HVAC and Copper Metal?

Thieves target mounted units on the roof including large capacity cooling equipment. In one situation, thieves destroyed more than a dozen HVAC units while taking copper from the roof-mounted condenser units. Each unit cost about $6,000 for a total of more than $72,000. The stolen copper was worth $1,200.

That is just the price for the stolen items. While destroying the HVAC units and stealing the copper, the thieves also caused more than $50,000 in damage on the roof. Add to that the cost of daily operations because the businesses in the building had to shut down for repairs and replacements.

Here are the things thieves look for on properties:

  • New wiring and piping of all types in occupied or vacant buildings, as well as those under construction
  • Copper coils in HVAC systems and refrigerators
  • Copper flashing, gutters, and roofs and other metal components
  • Piping in heating and electrical systems
  • Installed electrical wiring in unoccupied building sections

Fortunately, you can take steps to help prevent damage and theft of your HVAC systems and copper.

What You Can Do to Deter HVAC Damage and Copper Theft

For all ground-mounted and rooftop units, the simplest thing you can do is check the lighting. It should be bright and enhance visibility without being harsh. You might also want to install fencing around the property. This adds another barrier. The more you have, the harder it is for suspects to steal.

Another easy, cheap fix is posting signs indicating "no trespassing" and "area is under video surveillance." However, some thieves may look around for cameras thinking the signs are just a deterrent and keep going when they don't see cameras.

Thus, you want to mount cameras in strategic locations to have the best possible views of problem areas with no blind spots. Remember the CBS17 news story? The site had cameras and captured images of the suspects. However, it may be possible no one was watching those cameras since the thieves did a lot of damage by the time the police arrived on the crime scene.

What about on-site security guard services? They do not always patrol the roof for safety reasons. It can also be hard to reach some parts of the roof. That's another advantage of using live video monitoring. This roof security solution uses a combination of technology and human intelligence. Trained security operators watch your property through the monitors.

At the same time, the technology incorporates video analytics to enhance monitoring. Analytics can automatically detect events, such as a person climbing on the roof or approaching the property. As soon as it notices something, the system alerts the operator. When this happens, the operator verifies the activity and acts based on the situation.

It may only take fewer than 10 minutes to steal copper, but that could be enough time for someone watching your cameras to act and get law enforcement on the scene. Security guards cannot be everywhere at once. Monitored cameras see far more of the property all at once.

To further secure rooftop HVAC units, add bolstered wall-mounted exterior ladders. Search the property for access points to the roof. Remove, lock, or secure these access points while following fire safety rules.

Partner with the local police and ask for suggestions on steps to improve security.

How Remote Video Surveillance Can Protect Roofs

A security expert from Stealth Monitoring can create a customized rooftop surveillance system with outdoor security cameras that can operate in a variety of environmental factors. These cameras can withstand extreme temperatures, heavy rains, strong winds, and snow. They continue streaming video 24/7 and can see in dimly-lit areas. Even though they work in low lighting, you still want effective lighting.

Here is a real-life scenario from Little Rock, Arkansas. A suspect walked behind a retail center, which caught the eye of a Stealth trained security operator. The operator watched the site and contacted the on-duty security guard about the individual. The suspect had climbed up to the shopping center's roof, dodged the surveillance camera's view, and began tampering with it.

The operating monitor called the local police who brought a K9 unit and arrived at the shopping center within minutes. The responding officers climbed to the roof where they found a damaged rooftop security camera. Stealth quickly repaired the camera. In many cases, we can repair camera issues without setting foot on your property by doing it remotely.

Live Video Monitoring Helps Prevent Property Liability Issues

Climbing on the roof is dangerous. Furthermore, a suspect can get hurt while breaking the HVAC system to access copper. An injured suspect can actually sue your property and win the case. Yes, even though the suspect was doing an illegal activity.

Here's a video in which a suspect climbed to the roof and continued to climb despite receiving an audio warning.

With eyes on your property and available video footage, you can decrease your chances of encountering liability problems. Video monitoring provides you with the evidence you need to show that you took reasonable precautions to secure the site. It also offers proof of false claims.

Additionally, rooftop video monitoring can identify potential hazards. Operators watch for things like exposed wires, holes, ladder instability, and other safety problems. Should they find a problem, they contact the property manager or assigned personnel.

What Stealth Monitoring Can Do for Your Property

As a privately held company with U.S. headquarters in Dallas, Texas, Stealth focuses on providing live video monitoring services for businesses like yours. Working with us, you gain a company with an R&D department that finds more effective ways to maximize your security using artificial intelligence. The R&D team also develops new technologies to provide managers with valuable business intelligence data to improve their day-to-day operations and decision-making abilities.

The advanced technology available to you combines human intelligence and efficient processes to watch cameras and deter crime. This greatly reduces expenses associated with security guards, ineffective lower quality cameras, and inadequate security technology.

With more than 500 employees and three live video monitoring control centers, our team proactively watches more than 20,000 cameras every day. Because of this, we've deterred more than 15,000 crimes and helped police arrest more than 500 suspects.

We work with a variety of industries including:

To learn more about how you can get a customized security solution that fits your needs and budget, please contact us today.

Posted in: Crime Prevention, Video Security Systems, Security Guards & Savings, Video Monitoring