Last week’s epistle on copper thieves, the damage they do, the question of whether the current prescribed punishment fits their crimes and placing some of that punishment burden on the backs of scrap dealers who buy stolen metal drew a vast, varied reaction.
First and in fairness, with regard to the issue of restitution for the metal theft at our office: Towaliga circuit district attorney Richard Milam phoned to tell me his office never received the paperwork I filled out on our theft. If that paperwork had arrived at the proper desk, we presumably would be in line for whatever blood the probation department could squeeze from the thieving turnips. That is a good thing.
Many felt having to show an ID to sell scrap metal was an infringement on their personal liberties. I just don’t understand that position. Perhaps they have forgotten about the rights of those whose properties are destroyed to supply the thugs with the fruit of their illicit labor?
Meanwhile, the state legislature is considering a proposal put forth by the Georgia Sheriff’s Association (GSA) to tighten regulations on scrapyards, many of which follow the current rules, according to those sheriffs.
Barrow County sheriff Jud Smith who lobbies for GSA under the gold dome noted the mere fact metal thefts continue proves scrapyards out there continue to buy the stolen goods.
Legislation passed in 2007 strengthened metal theft penalties and resulted in the provision sellers provide a photo ID. Thefts dropped off but much of that may have been due to the fact copper prices fell to about $1.50 per pound. That price is now nearing the $4 per pound mark and the thieves are out in force, stripping metal anywhere they can find an unattended supply of it.
Obviously, there are places the thieves can sell this stolen metal without fear of repercussions.
“I’d say probably 85 to 90 percent of the metal shops have abided by the rules and are doing what they are supposed to do and taking IDs. But most criminals realize that real quick and are not taking their scrap there,” Smith told the Athens Banner-Herald.
Senate Bill 296, which the sheriffs back, would require salvage yards to pay metal sellers with a check made out to the seller. Those selling aluminum cans would be exempt.
Additionally, any salvage shop buying copper or aluminum would be required to buy a permit from the local sheriff’s office. Those transporting metal to scrap yards would also have to obtain a permit.
Penalties would also be stiffened considerably under the proposal with the stiffest applying in cases where utility service is disrupted.
Another proposal, SB 311, would prohibit scrapyards from buying metal items placed at grave sites like markers and urns unless they are sold by a funeral home. It would also prohibit salvagers buying government property like manhole covers and street signs unless the items are sold by local government.
All of these are great ideas and could work.
As with any law, the proof in the pudding will lie in how stringently both the current and any new laws are enforced and in the stiffness of the punishment for violators.
Perhaps, the best idea I have read called for the reopening of the county work camps closed years ago. In those facilities, thieves could learn their lessons by providing free labor picking up litter, cutting grass and learning real life work skills.
There is a nearly new probation detention center in mothballs in Barnesville that would be an ideal location for Lamar and Pike counties to partner on in creating just such a facility.
Damn, that is well said and so true. Why did the labor camps disappear, Walter? Now the taxpayers pay for the bastards to eat and sleep, as well as, pay the counties to cut the grass on the roadsides.
The best sheriff in the world right now is one who would wake prisoners early, put them to work in the county, give them a tomato sandwich (from the garden they planted)for lunch, and bring them back to jail at night.
It would make them pay back a little instead of being rewarded. It would eliminate unnecessary county jobs from the taxpayers checkbook!
I agree with most of what you've written - but I disagree completely with forcing anyone to buy a permit to haul metal. Who will make the determination if the "stuff" is intended for scrap or simply being moved from one place to another. That is wrong - and overkill for the copper problem. I would hate for me to be moving various parts and pieces in the back of a truck from one place to another and get "cited" for not having a permit.
I do love the idea of work-camps though. We should never have stopped those.
Not limited to copper thefts any longer. These people are stealing radiators, car tags with frames. Some victims are even claiming insider theft. Call the sheriff if you are missing a radiator or tags from your car, truck or trailers. Join a support group. Be safe.
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