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Metal thefts on the rise
Local law enforcement facing challenge
Newell Recycling of Statesboro, LLC on U.S. 301 South is shown here. As the price of scrap metals rise, thieves are more likely to strike and try to sell the stolen goods to local metal recycling centers, authorities say.

Old appliances, damaged fencing, broken tools and equipment – junk to some, but cash to others. Metal items of all types can be recycled for cash, and all too often, thieves help themselves to anything metal they find.
Metal theft is a growing problem in not only Bulloch County, but across the state and region, said Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson.
Thieves have continuously targeted area churches and remote residences, ripping wires and copper tubing from air conditioner units and sometimes taking the air conditioners themselves, he said.
One set of offenders were even spotted by a county employee stealing metal grates from sewers, he said. By the time the offenders took the grates to the recycling yard, deputies were on their trail and they were arrested.
But in many cases, the thefts are unsolved.
People have stolen livestock trailers, vehicles, farm equipment, tin, fencing and gates – just about anything metal that is not attached and can be picked up has been stolen, he said.
“We patrol the area and check the churches on a regular basis, “Anderson said. “But there have been times people have struck right after we were there.”
Many farmers have reported thieves are even stealing copper from irrigation pivots – and recently, one woman was caught dragging an irrigation pipe form a field with her vehicle.
Metal prices dropped in October after a season of relatively high prices, said Eric Schroeder, logistics manager for Allied Metals in Metter. Allied also recently acquired a business in Statesboro formerly known as Stubbs Metal Recycling, on U.S 301 South.
Anderson said there have been times when pickup trucks and even small cars pulling trailers, filled with a conglomeration of metal items were seen lined up at that location, as well as at Newell Recycling, another metal recycling business nearby, waiting to sell their loads.
It’s not just a county problem. Metal thieves strike inside city limits as well, said Statesboro Police Major Scott Brunson.
“There has been an increase in metal theft,” he said.”It’s bringing a good price, and with the bad economy, it’s quick cash. People are needing money. Part of it may be drugs, but it’s needing money in general.”
The most precious metal seems to be copper, he said. But anything metal is fair game. “You name it, they’ll steal it,” he said.
Thieves have even been known to cut copper pipes form older, abandoned homes. Last year, a body was found underneath a College Street house by someone police suspected may have been underneath the house, trying to steal metal.
It is a difficult battle to fight, Anderson said. While metal companies work well with law enforcement, often by the time a stolen item is reported and tracked, it has already been shredded and gone.
Anyone selling metal at Allied Metals must give a driver’s license, address, tag number, and buyers even record the vehicle description, Schroeder said.
Sometimes there are red flags regarding items being sold, such as “new products, or a large quantity of similar items,” he said. “There are quite a few different red flags.”
But mostly, buyers cannot tell when metal is stolen.
Anderson recommends reporting stolen items immediately; recording identification numbers on items that have them, and keeping a sharp eye out for suspicious people or vehicles.
“If you have scrap metal, if you don’t want it, get rid of it yourself,” Brunson said. “If you have empty houses, check your pipes and property regularly.”
Anderson said local metal recyclers have been cooperating well with law enforcement regarding reported metal thefts.
People taking metal or any other item from property that is not theirs, regardless of whether they feel the items are abandoned or unwanted, can face charges of theft by taking as well as criminal trespass, he said.

Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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