Drive through almost any Memphis neighborhood and you'll see window units blasting cool air into hot, Mid-South homes. But when the temperatures rise, so do the number of air conditioner thefts.
Living without AC in this kind of heat can be deadly. Betty Jean Farland died inside her apartment last week after her AC unit was stolen. "They just going around stealing air conditioners out of people's windows, that's what they're doing."
It happened at Kenneth Smith's house too. "I said 'somebody done stole my air conditioner!'"
Luckily Smith survived the theft, but his replacement AC is much smaller. He also had to pay for a cage to protect the unit from thieves. "$500 for the cage around the AC and the other windows? Yea. Thought it had to be done because if I had put it back in there without this, they probably would have come back and got it."
According to Memphis police reports, dozens of AC units have been stolen this summer. Some were ripped right out of windows. And just like citizens, the police department is feeling the heat as well.
Some crooks are after the copper inside air conditioners. Others may just want the units for themselves. "Return to that neighbor to neighbor contact and be on the lookout for anyone suspicious in the area," advises MPD Detective Monique Martin.
Kenneth Smith found his own solution. "This is pretty much the only way to keep somebody from getting your AC? Pretty much. Pretty much." He hopes anyone who wants to try and take his new AC has a hard time dealing with the cage around it.