Southeast Metal Task Force battles copper thieves - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Southeast Metal Task Force battles copper thieves

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Metal thefts continue to plague South Georgia business and property owners, with more victims almost daily.

Georgia metal recyclers are now banding together with law enforcement to fight these criminals.

It's called the Southeast Metal task force, and Georgia Metal recyclers set it up, working with law enforcement across the state, and electrical corporations, telephone companies, plumbing groups, and insurance companies to try to stop this growing crime problem.

It was a hot day at work for the employees at Restoration Drycleaning on O'Kelley Lane.   Metal thieves stripped their air conditioner.

Schnitzer Southeast recyclers led the way to set up the Southeast metal task force, to make sure those thieves don't sell those copper coils at their business.

Schnitzer Southeast Public Relations Manager Chip Koplin said "Any respectable recycler does not want to buy stolen materials. It's not the right thing to do, and we also feel since we are victims of metal theft crimes a good bit, we'd like these folks in jail just as much as the general community."

So Schnitzer has partnered with companies like Georgia Power, AT&T, Plumbing unions, and other victims of metal theft to fight back. They are working with law enforcement....so when they put out a metal theft lookout, the description of the property is sent to recyclers in the region.

Koplin said "That information is broadcast for about a 100 mile radius of that zip code of where the theft took place, to all the recyclers and other law enforcement."

Schnitzer will not buy nonferrous metal from anyone except legitimate contractors, and he records all of their transactions.

Schnitzer Southeast Albany General Manager Rex Kiger said "We make sure to get the identification on individuals coming in sell the scrap. We've got cameras that take pictures of the scrap, as it comes in. Take pictures of the vehicles and the scrap."

The task force is encouraging property owners to spray paint identifying marks on their air conditioning coils and valuable metal.

Koplin said "that way the recyclers can have a better chance of identifying it, and then the prosecutors can make a definite case for prosecution."

Metal theft is a huge crime problem across Georgia, and recyclers say they are doing their best to battle it as well.

It's a frustrating and expensive problem for South Georgia small business owners. We showed you Restoration Drycleaning's air conditioner. It's going to cost them $3000 to fix it, and the thief will get only a couple of bucks for the metal, if he can sell it.

Some utilities offer rewards for information in the thefts of their wiring.

You can link to the Scrap Recycling Industries theft alert website here.


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