Published: May 28, 2011 3:29 AM EDT
Updated: May 28, 2011 1:37 AM EDT

LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- Believe it or not, the rash of air conditioner thefts is providing a big business boom for local companies. So much so they can't keep up with demand.

They say crime doesn't pay but in the case of air conditioner thefts, it's paying big bucks for some local businesses.

"This is just what we have in progress right now as of today. This will change tomorrow and every other day after that," said Scott Cromley, who owns Scott's Metal Works.

It was just a year ago that Cromley lost his job.

"After I got laid off it was probably one of the best moves that ever happened to me. My business took off one hundred fold," said Cromley.

Cromley used to build cages for air conditioning units on the side

"I'm making more money now than I ever have," said Cromley.

Thanks to recent AC thefts on the rise in southwest Florida, Cromley is cashing in

"Its to the point I don't have to time sit down and add it up. We're that busy. I have a fortunate product in an unfortunate time," said Cromley.

For weeks people have been stealing AC units from schools, churches, and homes all for quick cash in scrap metal.

"We make these cages here to cover the condensers because people have been stealing them," said Dennis McWhinnie, owner of Dam Cage.

McWhinnie said his demand for cages has skyrocketed.

"They come to steal them and they see the cage. They look across the street and they're going to say let me get that one because I don't have to get past the cage. That is why a lot of people put the cage," said McWhinnie.

Cromley said when a thief destroys an AC unit it can cost thousands of dollars in damage for just $15 to $20 worth of scrap. Cromley said he had his life threatened by people stealing and says he has one message.

"Stop it, get a job. Stop stealing from your friends and neighbors. Get a conscious," said Cromley.

Replacing an air conditioner unit can run anywhere from $3,500 to $5,000 and up to replace. A cage around the unit to protect it will run you between $400 and $600.