|Natasha Jodoin-Davies, owner of Bartlett House of Antiques, is photographed behind her store by the air conditioner where surveillance cameras caught a man stealing the freon from the air conditioner. Photo taken on July 4, 2012. JULIE JOCSAK/ QMI AGENCY
ST. CATHARINES, Ont. — A Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., business owner is baffled by a chemical theft so rare, Niagara police and a technician say they’ve not heard of any recent similar incidents.
On June 27, a surveillance camera caught a middle-aged man apparently siphoning Freon from an outside air conditioner at the Bartlett House of Antiques.
In the motion-sensor video, the man can be seen riding up on a scooter at about 8:15 p.m.
He removes a chemical container, is seen walking towards the Freon gas supply, jumps into an enclosure, and then motors off with what appears to be a filled container.
Bartlett owner Natasha Jodoin-Davies said she knew something was wrong the next day when she discovered that the unit, which cools the back of the store, was pumping out warm air.
Jodoin-Davies speculated the thief must be someone who knows the system and is in the business.
Since the theft, a man claiming to have been the one to have stolen the coolant called the store owner to offer partial compensation.
“I have just not heard of this before,” air conditioning technician Ron Penner said, who has been in the business about 20 years. “(Stealing Freon) was never feasible before because the price of refrigerant was so cheap, so no one was going to steal it.”
Replacing the chemical cost Jodoin-Davies $800 because insurance doesn’t cover the theft.
Jodoin-Davies said the man claiming to be the one responsible for the theft told her by pay-phone Thursday he’s aware he may be arrested, and appreciates he did something wrong.
He offered to arrange to pay her $250 compensation at an unspecified date.
NRP spokesman Const. Rich Gadreau said the theft is being investigated.
“I wasn’t able to find anyone who has ever heard of this before,” he said. “Usually when you hear about air conditioners getting tampered with, it’s for the copper.”