Copper pirates raid area homes, businesses - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Copper pirates raid area homes, businesses

March 2, 2006

Albany -- Dozens of churches, businesses, and homes around Albany have been hit by "copper pirates." Air conditioners and metal tubing are being stolen in just about every part of the city. The price for that metal has skyrocketed, and thieves have caught on.

Members of the Albany Grace Chapel on North Slappey found their air conditioners gutted Sunday morning. Church member Carl Gentry said "It's a sad state of affairs, it kind of tells you what the world is right now."

Their church was another victim of the Copper pirates, who are ripping apart air conditioners all over town. Gentry said "Stealing the copper. I guess copper prices must be pretty high right now."

In fact, copper prices are the highest level in 25 years, bringing about $1.80 a pound at scrap yards.

Lawyer Ralph Scoccimaro's office one morning was hot. Scoccimaro said, "The air conditioners were gone. In fact one of them was completely gone, and the other air conditioner had been torn apart where they stole the copper tubing out of it. So we were without air conditioning for a week."

The thieves like to hit churches or businesses, that they know will be deserted at night. Scoccimaro said " The copper prices have gone sky high, and perhaps some crack addicts or other folks with other motivations were trying to sell the copper."

Bill White's L & S Seafood Market will not have a new awning, because thieves have stolen most of it from his backyard. White said, "They about stole everything over there. They cut the fences, and get in there and get whatever they want. And I know it's being sold here in Albany."

Scrap yards and metal recycling businesses in Albany would not talk to us on camera, but said they cannot question everyone selling scrap metal. Georgia law says they have to take names and addresses of sellers, but these victims say the number of thefts prove the pirates are having no trouble cashing in.

White said "They mash it up and fold it, but they know it's awning. I just wish they would do something about it."

It's a petty crime, but costing the victims big money to replace their air conditioners. Scoccimaro said "It was a couple of thousand dollars, it was expensive. Plus we had to put fencing around here, which was expensive also."

Bill White says you should care, because businesses have to pass on their crime losses to you, their customers. "You can only take so much loss, and then you got to go up on your prices. I hate that."

Albany Police have made a few arrests, but the number of air conditioner thefts continue to skyrocket, driven by the increasing price of scrap copper.

One of the air conditioner theft victims said Police Investigators told him the thieves were mostly drug uses, looking for money for their next fix.

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