Copper law to be watched closely

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With copper prices and theft on the rise again in Richmond County, authorities are taking action and watching to see whether a new law across the river proves effective.

Last week, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed into law a new bill that will impose harsher penalties on thieves and metal dealers who buy stolen copper and will add regulations to make criminals more traceable. The law takes effect Aug. 16, but Richmond County sheriff's Capt. Scott Peebles said he doesn't expect it to have much of an impact locally because thieves in places such as Aiken and North Augusta can easily cross into Georgia to shirk the law.

Peebles was hesitant to offer an endorsement, saying that it would take studies and time before it can be determined whether the new law is effective.

Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris is a little more optimistic, saying he would support a similar law in Georgia.

"It's certainly not going to hurt, and only time will tell," Morris said. "If there's a way to track (stolen copper and thieves), it'll be a help to officers."

Alan Murray, the owner of ALCS Recycling in Aiken, supports the state law. He said the requirement for scrap metal dealers to pay for copper by check is crucial to provide a way to trace criminals and will even make business easier for dealers who typically withdraw large sums of cash from banks daily.

"That should deter a good portion of it, I would think," said Murray, who agrees with the law's premise that many thieves are looking for quick money to use to buy drugs. "Cash is king on the street."

Georgia doesn't have any new copper theft laws on the horizon, but Peebles said Investigator Kendall Brown recently moved from the violent crimes division to a full-time position focused on fighting copper theft.

Peebles said Brown has been effective in the role before.

"The guys that we work with locally by and large are very cooperative with us," Peebles said. "Every time that we've done spot checking and things like that, they've been in compliance with the laws that are in existence."

Columbia County doesn't have any scrap metal dealers, but Morris said authorities will work with a task force from Richmond County to help protect businesses that are occasionally hit by copper thieves.

Peebles said the department will keep track of how many people Brown is able to catch, and more help could be added if it's deemed necessary.

"We're in it for the long haul," he said. "It's not something we're going to do for a week or two, or even for a few months."

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daviddunagan 07/01/11 - 10:04 am
AC- please follow up with

AC- please follow up with stories related to the sentencing of the individuals currently being prosecuted for these crimes. If you need names, I can help you. I've requested that the district attorney's office use these individuals to set example's by and was told it will be up to the judge as to what sentences are handed down. These stories will make for good reading. To Investigator Kendall Brown, we are really depending on you to put the fear of God into these criminals and recycling centers. These thugs have cost small business' like mine dearly and I have no sympathy for those who are injured or killed while stripping out someone's home.
David Dunagan
D&D Properties

WW1949 07/01/11 - 10:16 am
Hope the ones stealing the

Hope the ones stealing the copper wiring cut a live one and then think they are being introduced to Old Sparky. Some one just stole all the copper water lines from a vacant house near my office.

TK3 07/01/11 - 11:19 am
Big Brother knows most of

Big Brother knows most of these metal thefts are yet another result of their failed prohibition #2 yet they pass more laws regulating businesses. Course they know that all such laws create new regulatory powers and of course jobs down the road for police and companies building and running prisons and of course the politician$, while doing little to reduce drug crimes. When will citizens ever learn?

The next best way to stop many of these thefts, besides repealing Prohibition again and taxing and regulating drugs like booze, is a few property owners protecting their property with force. That would be more of a deterrent to property thefts than going after businesses.

PS: To all the Neo~fascists, No... I have no interest in metal recycling or drugs and I hate what drugs do to the people who abuse them but they also have free will and must suffer the results themselves.
PSS: To the Neo~socialists..No tax dollars should be spent on those who decide to harm themselves with drugs!

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