Tough law curbs metal thefts - CBS46 News

Tough law curbs metal thefts

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ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) -

If you're going to peddle metal here in Georgia, you better be ready to prove you do it legally.

A tough, year-old law that cracks down on metal thefts requires recycling companies to closely check who is selling them scrap.

"Our buyers are on the lookout for things that look suspicious," said Chip Koplin, governmental and public affairs manager for Schnitzer Steel Industries Inc., a major metal recycler.

The law requires recyclers to take pictures and check the photo identification of anyone who walks in to sell metal.

The seller also must sign a statement saying the metal was obtained legally.

The law requires recyclers to pay in checks, not cash, making them easier to track.

"The criminals also know we're required to take a picture of their face at the cashier's window," Koplin said.

"If they're going to be concerned about being tracked to a certain crime, they're not going to be coming to the more reputable recycling companies," Koplin said.

The number of metal thefts in the region has plummeted because of those extra steps, Koplin said.

"Thefts are down as much as 90 percent since the law went into effect," Koplin said.

Thieves typically steal air conditioners for copper and catalytic converters for their platinum.

Gwinnett County police told CBS Atlanta metal thefts dropped from 214 in the first quarter of last year down to 78 for the first quarter of this year.

Lee Swann, a corporate security investigator for the Georgia Transmission Corp., said criminals used to break into their high-voltage substations all around the state for the copper wiring.

The metal theft law is closing the circuit on that.

"It is not as bad as it was previously," Swann said. "We're looking at 43 percent within the last year or so."

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