ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Thousands of dollars in damage was inflicted on a local building during a theft incident. So, what was worth stealing? Copper.

“The copper that was removed was actually just torn straight out, so they grabbed it by hand. They didn’t have a tool. They just grabbed it and pulled on it in an effort, so it damaged the unit itself,” UNM Facilities Management Director Alfred Sena.

The University of New Mexico (UNM) is not exempt from the city’s copper theft problem.

“It’s not that it didn’t occur before, but it became much more prevalent as a result of COVID and when things were shut down.”

Sena said the Hartung Building at the corner of Central and Stanford, the home of UNM’s Fine Arts, has been hit by copper thieves more than once.

Back in January, someone climbed up to the roof and got away with all the copper service lines that go to the air conditioning units. It caused more than $200,000 in damage.

“It’s not just one entity that’s addressing this. It’s actually affecting much more and the taxpayers, so that’s the difficulty I have with it,” Sena said.

He believes the thieves that did this are using a nearby tree to scale the building. The University is now working with a property owner next door to potentially take the tree down.

“Try to create another barrier of sorts to help eliminate the invitation to come up here and do that.”

Three months later, they’re still working to fix the problem. With warmer weather arriving, several of the classrooms were shut down for the rest of the semester because there was no cooling, moving students to other parts of campus.

“We’re having to ship some of the activities all the way to Mesa Del Sol, south of the city, in regard to film coursework that’s being done in the fine arts classes,” Sena said.

UNM hopes to have the system fixed in the coming weeks.