Columbus forms Copper Theft Task Force

By Taylor Barnhill  - bio | email

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -  Copper thieves have cost home and business owners millions of dollars last year in damages and now city officials in Columbus are fighting back.

In the past few years Randy Prather, Jr. says his business has had $20,000 in copper stolen from his business, "We have had houses where they go in and take the wiring, they take the air conditioning units, anything they can get their hands on."

And he's not alone. Columbus Police say last year alone $2 million in copper was stolen throughout the city. The rise in copper thefts is what prompted tighter restrictions by scrap metal buyers.

Joe Bulat, who works security for Schnitzer Scrap Metal, told News Leader Nine, "We have the individual's scanned I.D., all their information, including the vehicle they brought it in. We notify the burglary task force or the individuals with the metal theft task force, they come out, and we provide the information and hopefully put them in jail."

Now the new Copper Theft Task Force is coming up with creative ways of color-coding the wires used by businesses and major construction companies.

"We will be able to identify them. The scrap metal dealers will be able to do their job, contact the police and we can identify that as stolen property coming from a particular property owner and the courts will take judicial notice," explained Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson.

It's an idea Prather says would help, "It would help us identify it at a scrap yard. Right now there is no kind of coding. You cannot go to a scrap yard and prove that's your copper."

Mayor Tomlinson says the biggest weapon we have in the fight against copper thieves is the community members and new PSA's will encourage citizens to speak up, "It's our intent to offer a larger reward so it will be more profitable to turn in a copper thief than it will to become a copper thief."

Mayor Tomlinson says once the Task Force kicks off, they hope to join resources with surrounding areas like Harris County and Phenix City.

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