With prices for metals rising, the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has seen a dramatic increase in the numbers of metal thefts across the county in recent months
Sheriff Patrick Ray, in an interview Tuesday with WJLE, said thieves are stealing metal goods and selling them to scrap yards. He is asking that if you should become a victim of such a theft, please report it as soon as possible, because the scrap yards usually crush those items quickly.
"Over the last five or six months we've noticed an increase in our scrap metal thefts. As a matter of fact, these types of thefts have overtaken burglaries. Very rarely lately have we worked a home invasion. Most of our thefts are scrap metal. Its because metal prices have increased. Its also a good way for a thief to commit a crime and actually get away with it. Its very hard to prosecute these types of crimes. A lot of people are mistaken on what the scrap yards are required to do. When one of our detectives gets a report of a theft, he will call around to the area scrap yards. The only thing we can do is if we have a suspect, we check with the scrap yards to see if that individual has brought any scrap there," said Sheriff Ray.
Once a customer delivers scrap metal to a recycling center or scrap yard, Sheriff Ray said the product is only identified by how much it weighed in, so its important that these types of thefts be reported as soon as they are discovered.. "On their ticket, it has pounds. Pounds of metal. Pounds of copper. Pounds of aluminum. It doesn't identify it as any particular kind of metal, such as copper pipes, car hoods, rims, etc. It doesn't have a description of it. It only tells us how many pounds of that type of metal was brought in. So if the workers at the scrap yard don't remember what that customer brought in or they no longer have it on the scrap yard, then its up to us to find out what they brought and maybe go back and ask questions and conduct interviews with others to find out. The only thing the scrap yard is required to do is, for example, if copper is a precious metal, then they are required to hold that copper for five days. They withhold payment to whoever brought it in for the five days. They have to wait before they get a check. They have to hold it in case something comes up. Then we can go look at it. As far as any other scrap metal, anyone can bring it in there and sell it to the scrap yard, they can take it straight off the truck and crush it. Of course if its stolen goods then the evidence is gone once its crushed," said Sheriff Ray.
The types of goods being stolen lately range from farm equipment to automobiles, according to Sheriff Ray. "We've had all kinds of different things stolen from farm equipment to roof sheeting on a house. Anything that's made of metal they are going to pick up. We've had reports of vehicles that had broken down on the side of the road where thieves had loaded them up and taken them to the scrap yard. According to the law, certain model vehicles don't need titles so they can be taken in for scrap right then. We've had reports of vehicles setting out in open fields and during the night thieves go out there, cut the fence, back up there, hook a log chain to it, drag it out and take it to the scrap yard the next day. Batteries. That's another thing we see, especially at boat ramps where there is not a gate attendant or a lot of visitors going in and out. They (thieves) will pull up there, pop the hoods on them or bust the glass out, steal the batteries and carry them to the scrap yard and sell them there for the lead in them," he said.
Sheriff Ray urges property owners to be wary of anyone approaching you offering to do any clean-up work around your place "We ask everybody who may have individuals come to your house asking if you need your place cleaned up, to say no unless you know that person," he said.
You're also encouraged to report suspicious activity in your neighborhood. "We ask you to call 215-3000 which is the central dispatch and they will have one of the deputies at least go check it. Once they (thieves) have loaded up that stuff and they carry it to the scrap yard, within ten minutes it could be crushed and gone. If you see someone picking up scrap metal somewhere, try to write down their license tag number. It could be someone committing a theft," said Sheriff Ray.
To reduce the chances of your becoming a victim, Sheriff Ray urges you to secure your property as best you can ."I've been told that scrap metal prices are going to be even higher this winter so we're expecting more thefts," he said.