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The good news is that copper thefts around the region have declined. The bad news is why they've declined: It's due to worldwide weakening economies that have forced copper prices to tumble from a high of about $4 a pound in July to less than half that today.

Thieves are learning copper isn't worth stealing anymore -- at least for now, says Kendell Brown of the Richmond County Sheriff's Copper/Metal Task Force. At the height of the copper-stealing epidemic, Brown's unit was getting 40 cases a month; now it's about half that.

What's particularly disturbing about copper thefts is the thousands of dollars in property destruction caused in the act of stealing it. When copper prices were flying high, hundreds of air conditioning units in businesses and homes were destroyed each month. Thieves would strip the metal from wherever they could; nothing was off limits.

The Metal Task Force is grateful for the breather, but recessions don't last. The task force plans to be prepared for when the economy, and thefts, pick up.

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