Mayors meet on copper thefts

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 30, 2008

THE SELMA TIMES-JOURNAL

Copper thieves should watch out.

A regional attack on copper theft in the Black Belt is underway, according to area mayors.

The leaders of eight cities and towns from around the region met in Selma on Tuesday to discuss how to address theft of copper.

The metal is popular because it&8217;s easy to get from air conditioners and building sites and easy to sell as a recyclable in a nearby town. As the value of copper and other scrap metals has risen in the last couple of years, so have incidences of taking the goods.

By working a a regional group, said Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr., area mayors plan to prevent thieves from profiting off the ill-gotten gain.

The mayors, including Phillip White of Uniontown, hope to follow Montgomery&8217;s lead on making law stricter so once the suspects are nabbed and later convicted in municipal court, they&8217;ll serve some time.

Recently, at a Montgomery Strategic Crime Committee meeting, officials from the state, county and city decided to take a three-pronged approach to the thefts.

If someone is arrested and convicted in Montgomery, they&8217;ll go to jail for the first offense for 30 days; they&8217;ll spend 60 days in jail for the second offense and six months for the third offense.

Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright said, &8220;We found there was a gap in the judicial system when it came to dealing with copper thieves. by giving them time in jail, hopefully, it will give them time to cool off.&8221;

The thievery has become so rampant nationwide in the last few years that at least 20 states, including Alabama. On Sept. 1, 2007, a state law went into effect banning cash sales of scrap metal and requiring anyone selling scrap metal worth more than $100 to provide government-issued identification and contact information.