By Roger McKinney
When Linda Gardner turned on the air conditioning Wednesday morning at Second Chances, the Lafayette House resale shop, she noticed the store wasn’t cooling down.
Nancy McGrew, a co-owner of Green-Yates appliance store, in the same strip mall, was greeted by a maintenance technician when she arrived Wednesday at work. He told her to be prepared for a warm day.
Someone overnight on Tuesday had stolen all five central air-conditioning units that cooled the businesses at Midtown Center, 802-812 E. 15th St. The strip mall is owned by Bud Smith. Besides Second Chances and Green-Yates, the mall includes a Karate studio, Elisa’s Beauty Salon and a Dollar General store.
Joplin police arrested two men Thursday. Police Sgt. Chad Allison said the arrests are expected to clear 25 cases of air-conditioning recent thefts in Joplin and elsewhere. He said that includes five or six air-conditioning units stolen in Carl Junction this week and a unit stolen from the Joplin Health Department building.
Allison said the units stolen from the strip mall had already been scrapped out and couldn’t be salvaged.
He said the two confessed, and reports would be presented to the Jasper County prosecutor’s office. They remained in the Joplin City Jail on Thursday.
Gardner said after awhile Wednesday morning, she went out back to check on the air-conditioning unit and discovered it wasn’t there, nor were any of the other units.
Gardner said her customers seem to be handling the mid-afternoon heat better than she is. Replacement units had not yet arrived on Thursday morning. Store managers were coping with fans and doors propped open.
McGrew also said customers have been understanding about the situation. She said one customer even said she hadn’t noticed that the air-conditioning wasn’t working when McGrew apologized to her.
“Fortunately, the humidity isn’t bad,” McGrew said.
Joplin police Lt. Brian Lewis said air-conditioner thefts is a trend among criminals.
“They’re stealing them for the copper,” he said.