Dealing With The Problem Of Metal Theft

Yesterday I joined Senator Renee Unterman at a meeting aimed at solving Georgia metal theft problem. Senator Unterman organized the meeting and was kind enough to let me attend. I will be working with Rep. Jason Shaw on a bill in the House while Senator Unterman will work in the Senate. It should be pointed out that many scrap dealers are doing the right thing. Some are not and thus we have a problem. Thieves are stealing manhole covers, cars, trailers, they’re stripping copper wire from vacant homes and buildings, they’re stealing historical markers, shopping carts and road signs. We are even seeing urns stolen from cemeteries. Sadly there are some unscrupulous scrap dealers turning a blind eye to obviously stolen stuff.

Randy Travis was on hand yesterday and filed the report you see below. He had previously done two reports on metal theft (see here and here).

Law Changes to Crack Down on Metal Thefts:


  1. Harry says:

    Buzz, thanks for your leadership and support of Sen. Unterman’s efforts. This is a problem that will only get worse unless there’s much tougher enforcement undertaken.

      • dorian says:

        Buzz, I can tell you with 100% certainty that enforcement of existing laws cannot stop it. Deputy Sheriff’s go to scrap yards every day. Every day. Can you imagine any other business that could stay in business if law enforcement had to travel there every day to investigate a crime? I can’t. It is a tidal wave, and it is getting worse.

        Moreover, as can be seen from the freshly printed criminal justice reform report, we are getting softer on non violent crime, not tougher. I’m not addressing the merits of that position, but it does mean, from a practical standpoint, that the consequences of these thefts will be less severe, not more.

  2. Jason says:

    Our air conditioning unit was stolen in late August (we were also burglarized last week). I’m not one to jump on the “do something” bandwagon very often, but given that this is getting out of hand, I think some sort of legislative solution is necessary.

    Can’t believe I just wrote that.

  3. Andre says:


    Thanks for your leadership on this issue.

    My mother and I just went through a nightmare scenario with one of our rental properties, where vandals broke in, stole the copper pipes out of the walls, stole the copper wiring out of the furnace, and stole the air conditioning unit (which was bolted down to a concrete slab for extra protection).

    This cost us thousands of dollars, and resulted in the insurance premiums going up on the property.

    Hopefully, Buzz, your bill will get support from both sides of the aisle, and breeze through the legislature.

    • Cassandra says:

      1.) Copper tubing can by micro-etched to ID it in case of theft. Southwire is doing this with wire.
      2.) The insurance industry is a natural ally in this fight.

  4. NoTeabagging says:

    I agree that sometimes extreme measures such as specific legislation must be passed to allow tougher enforcement and penalties for ridiculous crimes.

    An example of this is requiring proof of legal age ID to purchase spray paints and other solvent based aerosol items. Communities have passed this legislation to deter graffiti and stop kids that like to get high sniffing spray solvents.

  5. ricstewart says:

    Thanks, Buzz, for taking action on this.
    Several small, rural churches in my area (including one I serve) have had their air conditioners stolen.

    I know that Mayor Tomlinson of Columbus has started a copper theft task force. You may want to talk with her and the other members of that group and get their recommendations. I’m not sure if there are any other local governments that have similar task forces.

  6. Max Power says:

    Someone stole the brass plaque from my father’s grave. It couldn’t have been worth that much but they’ll steal anything. As for how to deal with it, if I go into a pawn shop to sell something I’m given the third degree scrap metal should probably be the same.

  7. Engineer says:

    I’m not generally one to say go create new government programs or rules, but in this case, it seems there is very little being done to stop it. In south GA, farmers are having tens of thousands of dollars in damage done (in parts and repair) to single irrigation pivots and the thieves only get maybe a couple hundred dollars worth of metal at best (but tear it apart in the process). In Albany, there have been rashes of AC thefts in the past couple years, especially theft against churches. At a bare minimum, people selling metal should have to provide a valid photo ID and the buyer should have to keep a record of these purchases.

  8. It’s amazing how many people have been impacted by metal theft. It’s hard anymore to find someone who hasn’t either been impacted themselves, or knows of someone, or a businesses or church that hasn’t been a victim.

  9. When people steal AC units, they discharge the refrigerant on purpose, which is highly illegal and the fines start around $10,000 or jail. Why dont the AC theives get charged for this?

  10. Doug Deal says:

    I have been screaming for this for a long time, I am glad someone who can actually do something about it has picked it up.

    The biggest villain in theft is not the thief, it is the fence. When you have shady businesses like Pawn shops, junk yards and scrap metal processors willing to take material they know was not legitimately obtained, it creates an incentive.

    If you really wanted to take a bite out of theft, start charging pawn shop owners and scrap dealers with posession of stolen goods unless they can document the identity of the person who sold them the stolen goods with a real life picture of them and also of whatever i.d. they used. A digital camera can store thousands of pictures on a single memory card, so the cost would be negligible.

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