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Copper thieves do $500,000 damage to warehouse

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By Jim Wallace - bio | email

July 2, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - A Dougherty County business suffers more than a half million dollars in damages, as copper thieves destroy several refrigeration units.  And their crime is caught on tape.

Dougherty County Sheriff's Investigators have arrested one of the metal thieves, and now ask your help in finding another person suspected in the huge metal theft.

Surveillance video from June 22nd showed one of the fastest growing crime problems in South Georgia. 

A copper thief cut piping and tubing out of a refrigeration unit on a Flint River Services storage warehouse. Flint River Services President Lem Griffin said "The vandals, the people that are coming in and destroying this equipment to get a few dollars for the copper, it's devastating."

Despite fences, security guards, cameras, and alarms the copper thieves still gutted the refrigeration units. That cloud coming out from the unit is the freon rushing out of the pipes.

 Then they took the metal just a couple of hundred yards to a salvage yard, where they received about one thousand dollars, but the damage will cost much more to fix. Griffin said "We are looking at a replacement cost of over a half a million dollars."

 With copper prices skyrocketing to more than 3 dollars a pound, Law enforcement officers say metal theft is a major crime. Dougherty County Sheriff's Office Investigator Captain Craig Dodd said "It's worse than we've ever seen it."

 Dougherty County Sheriff's Investigators arrested 21 year old Jermaine Harrison for theft and criminal damage. Now they are looking for Milton Givens Junior as a person of interest in the case, and several other thieves seen on the surveillance video.

With copper thieves growing bolder, law enforcement is urging businesses to improve their security.  Dodd said "The city and county police and ourselves are stepping up patrols at these types of businesses that have a lot of cooling units and that kind of thing attached to the building. But we can't be everywhere, all the time."

Griffin said "We're coming up with all kinds of ways that we can to protect us, because it's really the life our company."

 Flint River Services is just one of many South Georgia businesses where crime has become a threat to their existence, and bold thieves are challenging every security measure to steal copper.

Investigators say the salvage company, Schnitzer Southeast, helped them track down the thief.

Now a reward could be offered for information leading to Milton Givens, Junior. If you know where he is, call CRIME STOPPERS at 436-TIPS, or the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office.

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