Copper thieves still on the prowl - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Copper thieves still on the prowl

June 20, 2007

Albany -- It's a hot commodity for crooks: copper wire. As the temperatures heat up, Albany Police say thieves continue to burglarize properties in search of any scrap metal they can cash in for a quick buck.  

A single fan whirls around in a now hot laundromat on West Gordon Avenue. That's because Wednesday morning, business owner Mary Rivers walked outside to find a shock.

"All the inside of it is gone, took all the lining. They took everything, left me with a hole," said Rivers.

A hole that won't be cheap to fill. Despite surveillance cameras, thieves made their way to the property overnight and peeled back the top of the air-conditioning unit.  They were on the prowl for metal.

"They need to stop because it's not right. It's wrong to just take things that don't belong to you," said Rivers.

Rivers isn't alone. As we spoke with her, Albany Police officers spoke with Sammy Sheard just a few steps away. "You feel violated because somebody is taking the time to make it feel like it's theirs," said Sheard.

Sheard owns a few apartments in the area. Police now search for fingerprints after a third hit on his property. "About $6,000 worth of damage counting the other two," said Sheard.

"Unfortunately it is an increasing problem here in Dougherty County," said Lieutenant Benita Childs.

Lieutenant Benita Childs with Albany Police reports about 150 scrap metal thefts so far this year. A high percentage of them are done by those who are homeless, out of work or have some kind of drug dependency.

"Over 85 percent of them have been linked to some type of dependency on drugs such as your crack cocaine," said Childs. Police are working hard to curb copper crimes but there are things property owners can also do.

"You may want to look at your lighting, your bushes whatever it takes so they can't come in your fenced area or your yard and make you a victim of this kind of crime," said Childs.

"Other people just don't realize this is tearing down the neighborhood," said Sheard. Rivers is worried. She also owns a second business and AC unit right next door to her laundromat. She hopes the thieves don't return for seconds.

"I don't feel good about it," said Rivers. It's a feeling she just can't wash away.  

Thieves get from $1.50  to about $3.00 a pound for scrap metal or wires. Lt. Childs says they've arrested 16 people so far this year, all males. APD is averaging about two arrests per month. The crimes aren't just done by people in Dougherty County.  Police recently arrested a Florida man who came to Albany to commit copper crime.

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