ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Copper and metal thefts have been making headlines for some time now. It's plaguing business and property owners who in some cases are losing thousands of dollars to crooks looking to cash in on the stolen goods.
General Manger of Schnitzer Scrap Metal, Rex Kiger, says he follows state law which requires him to record Id's and vehicles when people come in to sell metal.
He says he works with police weekly and gives them any information they need when it comes to catching metal thieves.
When the manager of Flint River Services noticed people stealing materials from his property Tuesday, he called police and followed suspects, Richard Bodiford Jr. and James Bryant to Schnitzer Steel Scrap Metal yard. Police had already warned staff to watch out for the men in the brown Chevy Blazer.
"We tried to keep the customer on the yard until police got here which we were able to do," said Kiger.
They were waiting to weigh their material. Soon after police came on the scene and arrested them.
"We try to give police all the information we can on thefts that have already happened," Kiger added. "If they have a description of what they bought, we'll give them all the information we can."
A camera on the weighing station records the vehicle and notes all materials brought in which makes it easier to assist police.
Investigators made six arrests last week when they were alerted. Thieves stole more than $30,000 worth of copper from farmers' irrigation systems from Seminole, Miller, Calhoun, Early, and Baker Counties.
David Waller, Matthew Irvine, and Richard Lundgren were all charged with theft by taking and criminal damage to property. Seminole County investigators arrested Anthony Bennett, Jimmy Griffith, Tonya Harrison, and Richard Lundgren last Wednesday. Lundgren was charged in both Seminole and Miller Counties.
Kiger doesn't purchase copper wiring from irrigation systems for that very reason.
"We want to buy from legitimate companies and people," Kiger noted. "Anytime there is a question, we try not to purchase the material."
Sometimes he buys material if it's part of an investigation to help police catch criminals. People charged with stealing more than $500 worth of metal could pay up to $5,000 in fines or serve up to five years in prison, depending on the case.
Investigators say part of the reason behind the surge in metal thefts, copper in particular, is because irrigation units are not in use. That gives thieves an opportunity to steal without out farmers knowing right away.