Copper Theft Task Force in Georgia launches reward fund

Columbus Ledger-EnquirerJuly 19, 2011 

A fund has been established to pay rewards of up to $1,000 to citizens who report copper thieves, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson announced Monday.

“We want it to be more profitable to report a copper thief than to become a copper thief,” she said.

Police Lt. Steve Cox, a police representative on the mayor’s Copper Theft Task Force, said copper thieves stole about $2 million worth in Columbus last year. This year, with increased attention from law enforcement, that number is down about 10 percent Cox said. But the problem remains in all areas of Columbus and for all types of businesses and individuals, he said, noting that there are on average 12 incidents of copper theft per week in Columbus.

Cox developed a color-coded identifying system for air conditioning coils that will help police track stolen copper, Tomlinson said.

When someone brings copper to a scrap metal dealer, the dealer is required to make a copy of his or her driver’s license and a specific description of the material. With the color-coded copper coils, thieves will be more easily traced, said Chip Koplin, regional government and public relations manager for Schnitzer Southeast, which operates a scrap business in Columbus.

Tomlinson said the money for the copper fund came from local businesses and concerned individuals. Much like the city’s CrimeStoppers program, citizens can call 706-653-3188 to report irregular behavior. If their report leads to an arrest and conviction of a copper thief, they can receive up to $1,000, the mayor said.

“We expect these rewards to encourage people to pay attention and to report information our law enforcement officers need to stop copper theft and property damage,” she said.

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