If you’re anywhere near a major through route to and from any sort of urban concentration, a locked cage around the A/C unit or heat pump is a good investment. I know several small landlords who have been hit multiple times, one house hit three times by itself. Always when unoccupied, yep, on a through route. Raiding parties as you said.
We’re fortunate in that although we are sandwiched between Newark and Jersey City, we have two rivers which serve as moats. They can get in & out, but their escape routes are limited.
Any time people around me see “likely perps”, they just call the police (and the police respond to shoo them away); NJ is so segregated that “likely perps” stand out like sore thumbs.