Copper thefts down in Albany - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Copper thefts down in Albany

By Jim Wallace - bio | email

November 13, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Albany and Dougherty County Police both report major reductions in the number of copper thefts.

It's been a serious problem for several years.  Thieves were stealing  everything from tubing in air conditioners to the wiring and pipes from entire buildings.  But now the number of thefts have dropped with the price of copper.

Southeastern Aluminum Recycling has only one small pile of copper and metal in their entire plant, demonstrating how slow copper sales and now thefts have become.

Dougherty County Police Captain Jimmy Sexton said "they are definitely down. We haven't seen as many reports in the last few months as we were seeing."

For the past three years, as the price of copper soared to nearly 3 dollars a pound for scrap, copper thefts skyrocketed with them. Air conditioner units were stripped almost daily.

 Dougherty Acting District Attorney Greg Edwards said "It was getting pretty rampant, and pretty much going on around the whole southern Georgia area."

The D.A.'s office formed a task force with all law enforcement in the area, and the recycling businesses working together. After a theft, Police would get the recyclers to be on the lookout for the materials.

 Sexton said "We would immediately notify them when we have a report of that kind of incident, so they could be on the lookout for the material that was taken."

Another big factor in the reduction in thefts, the price of copper has plummeted to only about one dollar a pound. Much less metal is coming to recyclers, so it's easier to spot stolen copper. But prosecutors want laws toughened against metal theft, for when the price increases again.

 Edwards said "We want to make sure it costs more of a legal penality, in terms if someone gets caught doing this type of crime."

And Police warn citizens not to let down their guard, even though copper thefts have decreased dramatically.

Greg Edwards said the copper theft task force will continue to work with metal recyclers to battle thefts.

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