DATELINE: Columbia, Missouri, late July 2008. “Police are investigating four weekend reports of someone stealing Freon from air-conditioning units in The Pines subdivision in southwest Columbia. The thefts occurred between 10 a.m. Friday and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, according to a police report.

“Cindy Albright, co-owner of Albright Heating & Air Conditioning in Columbia, said she had not previously heard of anyone stealing Freon. It has been more typical in the past year or two to hear of the theft of copper refrigerant lines because of the rising value of copper, she said. Albright declined to guess why anyone would steal the expensive refrigerant, which is in the process of being phased out.”

Talk about dumb crooks - they are stealing R-22!

Hey wait a minute, something smells here. Albright also said in the article, “I would say they would have to know what they’re doing because they’d have to have some kind of tank to pump it back into.”

Maybe these aren’t your typical crooks. Maybe these people with a hankering for Freon are doing it for more than just huffing purposes (getting high). Maybe there is a black market beginning to flourish for R-22, seeing that it will soon be obsolete and there will still be lots of a/c equipment that has not been updated to 410-A.

Let’s hope none of those crooks have ties to the HVACR trade, but it does make one stop and think. It could also spawn a new feature in our publication.

Coming soon -The NEWSPolice Blotter, a roundup of this week’s R-22 thefts. Don’t laugh.