Copper Thefts Costing Thousands

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News 12 at 6:00, July 18, 2007

AUGUSTA, GA--They're not after your jewelry or electronics, they're after you're copper.
Richmond county sheriff's investigators say thieves are digging it up and taking it out of air conditioning units across the area.

Investigators say it's happening more often, to more people. They say if it happens to you, it could cost you thousands. Larry knight is out 48 hundred dollars. His tenants who rent this house had some problems their water. But when the plumbers got there, they found the problem wasn't broken pipes. It was missing pipes.

"They discovered all the copper piping had been cut out for the water line, as well as the drain line was made of copper." He said.

This is the second time the copper thieves paid him a visit. And it's happened to 15 people just like him in the past two weeks, with almost 20 thousand dollars in damages. But, in many of cases, thieves didn't dig up pipes. The reports say they took them from air conditioning units.

"Basically they strip the copper and coils and take them to scrapyards...And sell it there." Said Lt. Tony Walden.

He says copper is a popular choice because it's value is on the rise. Right now, the charts show it's going for a little over three dollars a pound.
And once a thief sells it, Lt. Walden says "they'll strip the wires and burn the rubber off the copper. So, by the time it gets to the salvage yard it's hard to identify where it come from."

He says even when they do figure out where it came from, those places are out more than just the cost of copper.

"It's very costly. You're losing rent because you can't afford to replace it right away." Larry Knight said. Now, Larry has to save up thousands to replace what was rightfully his.

State law requires scrapyards to keep a record of who comes in to sell metal parts, and what the parts are. Lt. Walden says if an investigator checks the records and sees one person selling multiple copper pipes in a short amount of time, there's a good chance those parts are stolen.

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