Officials from both the Calhoun Police Department and the Gordon County Sheriff’s Office agreed theft is hitting the community hard, and the most popular stolen items include metal and items stored in cars.
Lt. Tony Pyle, information officer for the Calhoun City Police Department, said in Calhoun, metal theft has been prevalent. The continuing rise of prices for copper, aluminum and other metals along with their availability in common places may be to blame, he said.
“It’s easy money for them (thieves), and it’s hard to trace,” he said.
“The price has gone up, and it’s very attractive to take scrap metal,” added Gordon County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Robert Paris. “Every law enforcement agency around is dealing with this.”
Pyle said thieves in the area typically target abandoned homes, or other buildings, as well as air conditioners, for metal wiring. He said inhabited homes are also targeted during the day, when residents are at work.
The thieves then make quick money by selling the items to recycling centers or scrap yards, Pyle said. However, recycling centers are also law enforcement officers’ best defense against metal thefts.
“We are having success with recycling companies keeping documentation of people who come in to sell scrap metal,” Pyle explained. “It may not prevent the theft, but it makes it easier to make an arrest.”
Centers are required by law to get the ID of the person selling copper/scrap metal and to try to trace the origin of the material, Pyle said.
Paris said the Sheriff’s Office has already begun placing more patrol in areas with foreclosed or abandoned homes – places typically targeted by metal thieves. They are also working more closely with surrounding jurisdictions that have recycling centers, since Gordon County does not have one, he said.
Another ongoing issue that local law enforcement agencies are faced with is auto entry thefts.
This type of theft is the equivalent to auto burglary and happens when a criminal enters a vehicle and steals the belongings inside, said Paris.
Like metal theft, Pyle said auto entry theft is easy for criminals.
“It’s a crime of opportunity,” he said.
Although Gordon County is a small community, Paris said he still recommends residents to leave their vehicle locked since a majority of the criminal target unlocked cars.
“When we arrest people and debrief them, we ask ‘Why did you pick this car?’ and they always say because it wasn’t locked,” he said.
Pyle said in Calhoun, many of these car thefts occur at night at peoples’ residences where people feel the most safe.
“Most people think if they leave their pocketbook or wallet in the car that it will be fine because it’s in their driveway, but that’s where a majority of it happens,” he said.
Pyle said he hopes to reduce these crimes by getting the message out to residents about not leaving valuables in the car and always locking their vehicles.
Paris advises those who must leave valuables in their vehicles to make sure items are not visible.