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Authorities say trends dictate items to steal

Thefts linked to supply, demand

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Propane tanks are disappearing from Augusta's convenience stores, but they aren't the first hot item to make the top of local thieves' wish lists.

Just like the economy at large, criminal enterprises follow the law of supply and demand, police say. Instead of making what their consumers want, they steal it.

This fluctuating "market" means area law enforcement must stay up to date and identify the items that are the most attractive to thieves.

"What's popular today may not be popular next month or next year," said Capt. Steve Morris of the Columbia County Sheriff's Office.

In the past few years, thieves have shied away from stealing such things as car-stereo systems and furniture and instead targeted newer inventions, including GPS units and flat-screen TVs, Morris said.

The theft of more unusual items, such as the 60 propane canisters stolen this month, are harder to predict because it's not as clear what they are used for. Investigators suspect people are stealing them to sell or for use in home methamphetamine labs.

"It's mainly what they can sell -- what people can get off for a quick buck," said Richmond County sheriff's Investigator Kendall Brown.

Brown, now a violent crimes investigator, was once the point man of the sheriff's department's copper/metal task force.

Perhaps no other market trend in recent memory has caused the kind of widespread criminal activity as the sudden and sustained rise of metal prices -- particularly copper. And no other provides a better example of how authorities respond to trends in property crime.

For years, police were finding metal ripped from air-conditioning units, school bleachers and even fire hydrants almost daily. Most of the metal ended up at one of Augusta's many recycling centers for shipment overseas -- where Asian markets were driving up demand, Brown said.

In what proved to be a successful model, Brown and his supervisors devised a plan to cut off the market for the metal by working closer with the scrap yards.

The owners had traditionally been reluctant to call the police when someone dropped off a suspicious pile of metal because if it proved to be stolen they lost money.

Brown talked to the victims on a case-by-case basis and persuaded them to leave their metal at the yard because it had been damaged in the theft anyway. That way the yards wouldn't lose money because the victims could get insurance restitution. And they would be more likely to let police know when something suspicious came along.

Scrap yards were soon calling police when a suspicious load of metal arrived, and thieves were deterred.

Brown said they also worked to coordinate with other local agencies, including Columbia and Aiken counties. Because most thieves brought their metal to Augusta to sell, it only made sense that the quicker the deputies in Augusta knew the load might be coming their way, the easier it would be to catch the thief.

This kind of plan -- identifying trends, coordination among departments and attacking the money source -- is essential to fixing theft trends, Morris said.

"This has meant tremendous strides in communication (between departments) that has paid dividends to say the least," Morris said.

But while authorities feel such measures are successful, they are still reactive, he said. Keeping ahead of issues is always better, and prevention is key. Much of that lies in the hands of the public.

"We still preach prevention," he said.

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justus4
101
Points
justus4 02/27/10 - 06:16 am
0
0
Duh...thieves steal what they
Unpublished

Duh...thieves steal what they can sell or isn't nailed down. What university produced this brilliant piece of journalistic footwork? Here's the question: What deterents are being employed to deter such criminal activity? What planning is in place to predict "supply and demand"? With the level of unemployment predicted for the next few years, this issue can only get worse.

terry67
0
Points
terry67 02/27/10 - 07:40 am
0
0
What deterents are being

What deterents are being employed to deter such criminal activity? Heres your answer - NONE! The courts keep putting them back on the streets! And yes unemployment does make some ppl turn to crime, but most choose to be crooks regardless of their employment status! I know of a few ppl who got caught stealing copper from their job! And a good paying job at that! A crook is a crook.....most steal because they know they can with little or no consequences.

deekster
24
Points
deekster 02/27/10 - 07:42 am
0
0
Banks on every corner.

Banks on every corner. Credit Unions on every corner. Drug stores on every corner. Circle K on every corner. "Walk right in".

deekster
24
Points
deekster 02/27/10 - 07:47 am
0
0
Hey, lets leave Procter and

Hey, lets leave Procter and Gamble out of this discussion. High profits, but no involvement in thievery. A good community partner. They support the gay lifestyle. Even TIDE can't get the "deep down dirty" out. LOL

disssman
6
Points
disssman 02/27/10 - 09:26 am
0
0
If you want to deter crime

If you want to deter crime pass a law that pawn shops must have a digital picture of all transactions where they buy things. Want to sell mamas diamond rings, please step into the mug shot square and smile. Just how much would it cost? But now you know why they don't do it. If the item was found to be stolen, it would have to be returned.

luckie
2
Points
luckie 02/27/10 - 10:56 am
0
0
Amen to the pawn shop

Amen to the pawn shop comment. They will not tell you anything and will only talk to police whom are too busy to frequent the shops unless it is top dollar items. Personal experience with two burgrlaries. Sooooooo sad.

corgimom
32543
Points
corgimom 02/27/10 - 11:02 am
0
0
I've been poor. I've been

I've been poor. I've been unemployed. And I never stole. Saying "people steal because they aren't working" is bullhockey. You would need to steal all day, every day, to replace the income that a job provides.

flipa
35
Points
flipa 02/27/10 - 12:47 pm
0
0
Paint or engrave your PHONE

Paint or engrave your PHONE NUMBER on everything you think a thief will steal INCLUDING your car covers. I recently ran down a thief who was amazed i could still run like a track star and CAUGHT him with one of my expensive technalon car covers. I have been able to recover about $20,000. in goods stolen from me by walking up to the location i found that had my stolen item with a bunch of my river buddies kindly asking for our stuff back. They said “How you know it's your stuff?” I said it’s got my phone number spray painted it.ha ha ha They said “Oh” and gave my stuff back. Most of the downtown thieves hail from the 25 yr old crack houses that completely surround 401 Walton Way & are in the RCSD’s crack dealer union or something like it. Their cop buddies were a little miffed that i recovered my stuff but they haven’t figured out a way to put me or any other other property tax payer in jail (Although they are on record & VIDEO trying) for getting our stuff back from their crack dealer friends. Join the National Tax Payers Union. Re-direct your taxes back from being used against U.S as now, back to being used FOR U.S. as claimed.

www.NTU.org

dichotomy
33005
Points
dichotomy 02/27/10 - 01:35 pm
0
0
They are not trying to

They are not trying to replace the income from a job. They are augmenting their income from the government. We give them enough for housing and food but that don't leave much for spending money. If they go to work to get spending money we take away the other money we were giving them. So it is easier to steal and sell drugs to augment their income that it is to go to work. It is a system that our liberal society has created and we reap what we sow. We will always have this problem as long as we pay people to exist at the poverty level and never hit a lick at a snake....except for what they can steal.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 02/27/10 - 06:53 pm
0
0
As things continue to get

As things continue to get worse, theft will inevitably go up. Make sure you are armed and ready in your own home. Nothing stops a robbery better than a loaded gun.

Keep your doors & windows locked, garage doors down and toys & yard equipment in the garage. Petty theft is definitely on the rise. We live in a very nice neighborhood and we had a sled stolen from our yard when it snowed - a neighbor saw a white truck pull up, pick it up & drive away with it. If we'd seen it he would have met up with quite a surprise.....

Suzy Q
1
Points
Suzy Q 02/27/10 - 08:08 pm
0
0
Chillen, you would shoot

Chillen, you would shoot someone over a sled?

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 02/27/10 - 09:15 pm
0
0
Did I say I'd shoot someone

Did I say I'd shoot someone over a sled? Good lord, the pc police are out tonight. I guess you are one of the "no gun in my house crowd".

What I would do is instill a little fear in those stinking theives while calling the cops on them. It is not OK to steal ANYTHING from anyone, period. And, if they whipped out a gun, then I'd shoot them.

flipa
35
Points
flipa 02/28/10 - 02:29 pm
0
0
EVERY Big Time Criminal

EVERY Big Time Criminal started small time stealing sleds & such. Nipping in the bud future burgerlars & home invaders that end up killing their hostages or those who walk in on them isn't a completely bad idea, you know. Remember that gorgeous babe that just GOT killed cause she walked in on someone who was JUST STEALING?
She’s graveyard dead and all she did was walk into her own house. That's how it happens; they come to steal from you and wind up killing you. It’s much better to shoot them. They made their bed, let them lay in it if they insist. None of this thieving which leads to killing was any of our idea, it was theirs. They will reap what they sow even after they kill you if you DON"T defend yourself. I have had great success by shooing them with just a real powerful BB gun. It makes them run off and tell their other entire tax-paid brothers & sisters that they might get popped if they raid U.S.

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