City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado met with a group of small business owners from Liberty City who have been the victims of copper thefts.
Thefts of copper wire, air conditioning units, and electrical meters have plagued businesses along NW 7th Avenue between 54th and 62nd Streets, said Christine King, President/CEO of the Martin Luther King Economic Development Corporation.
“The thefts are affecting small businesses and non-profit organizations. This population can ill afford the cost to replace entire air conditioning units multiple times – it is an emotional and financial hardship," said King.
In many cases, the air conditioning units are hidden on rooftops, but that hasn't stopped thieves.
"One time, we can take the hit. But multiple times, we absolutely cannot," said one woman.
The group met with Regalado on Wednesday to discuss possible solutions for the growing problem.
"I did not know that it was so, so big here in this area. Businesses been hit so many times for the same reason," said Regalado.
"The air conditioning units alone cost about $2,000, but the business aspect of it costs a little more," said business owner Edward Colebrook. "When it's hot inside, nobody wants to stay inside."
"It's hard to replace things that are taken continuously," said Helen Stewart of Sheyes Learning Center. "We're just about at a standstill. Our staff is low. The children are disappearing because we have to close when we don't have the air condition."
In September 2011, a woman was hit and killed along Northwest 7th Avenue. She was wearing all dark clothing, and the driver of the vehicle did not see her coming, police said, because there were no working street lights after a series of copper wire thefts.
"If we had more police patrolling the areas, that we would be better off," said Stewart.
Florida Power & Light has added more locks on its power poles to prevent copper thefts. Miami Police plan on increasing foot patrols in the area.