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RICHMOND COUNTY, Ga. -- Eleven local law enforcement agencies have joined together in the area's first "metal task force" to help stem the rise of thefts involving metals such as copper, aluminum and steel.
With their first meeting, Richmond County Sheriff's Lt. Tony Walden said from now on, Augusta won't be working alone to combat the problem.
"The possibility of (thieves) getting caught just increased," Lt. Walden said.
The plan is to create a database to share information between the agencies, something that had been sporadic before. And because the bulk of the recycling centers - the businesses that buy scrap metal for cash - are in Richmond County, Lt. Walden said it's essential to be in contact with other counties in the area.
"The Savannah River doesn't stop them from going over and committing crimes over there," Lt. Walden said.
For years now, thieves have targeted everything from high school bleachers to city water meters. They cut, strip and rip them from homes and businesses to sell at local recycling centers for profits. Air conditioning units remain the most sought after item for the copper coils inside.
With the help of other agencies, and the six major recycling centers in the area, Lt. Walden said they hope the two accomplish two things that have been lacking. One is to have the centers provide a better description of the metal - which is often crushed for scrap before investigators can examine it. Once that happens, it's hard to make a case because the evidence is destroyed. Lt. Walden wants it stopped.
"It would help our job tremendously," he said.
Another is to have the centers report suspicious activity. If someone arrives with 20 feet of copper tubing, it should raise some eyebrows, he said.
The task force plans to meet once a month to discuss trends and hopes to have a shared database running in the near future.
"We deemed a long time ago that we were not going to be reactive; we are going to be proactive," Lt. Walden said.
COPPER/METAL TASK FORCE
Eleven law enforcement agencies are working with recycling centers to prevent metal theft in the CSRA:
- Richmond County Sheriff's Office
- Columbia County Sheriff's Office
- Aiken County Sheriff's Office
- McDuffie County Sheriff's Office
- North Augusta Department of Public Safety
- Edgefield County Sheriff's Office
-l Jefferson County Sheriff's Office
- Wrens Police Department
- Fort Gordon CID
- CMC Metal Recycling
- Augusta Steel and Metal Co.
- Newell Recycling Augusta
- Campbell Recycling