Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry, president of the Georgia Sheriff's Association, spoke to the Georgia Farm Bureau Board of Directors recently about metal theft, offering recommendations for state legislation needed to fight the crime.
"Communities across the state are suffering a loss we can't sustain due to metal theft," Berry said. "I've been in law enforcement for 34 years and this is a crisis."
Berry said he hopes to see the Georgia General Assembly pass legislation next year similar to a law that went into effect in South Carolina in August. South Carolina's new law requires permits to sell metal and includes other regulations that make it easier for law enforcement to trace criminals.
Berry said he would like to see Georgia pass state legislation that requires a permit issued by the local sheriff's office to transport more than 10 pounds of nonferrous metal or to sell nonferrous metal. Permits would be issued, pending a criminal background check by the sheriff's office.
Berry would also like to see a state law that eliminates cash payments for copper sales regardless of the payment waiting period and that implements a statewide computer database to record all metal sales.
Much better system
"If we had a statewide database it would allow us to track sales electronically rather than going door to door," Berry said.
"You can look at a database, and if you see the same name popping up around the state after a while that looks funny. How many air conditioners and how many miles of copper wiring does one person have to sell?"
Berry's presentation was the second in a series GFB President Zippy Duvall has arranged as the GFB directors explore ways Farm Bureau can fight metal theft.
In July, Chip Koplin, president of the Georgia Recyclers Association, spoke to the board and suggested ways property owners can prevent theft, such as using fluorescent paint to mark pieces of metal that may be targeted for theft with a unique symbol.
"Georgia Farm Bureau recognizes what a serious problem metal theft is for farmers and our policy supports the strict enforcement of laws and penalties against metal thieves and the buyers who facilitate the illegal trade of metal," Duvall said.
"We worked with a coalition of utility companies in 2009 to get SB 82 passed which requires metal buyers to keep a record of identification information for all metal sellers, and we continue to explore the issue to find other ways we can thwart metal thieves."
Georgia Farm Bureau took a leading role in the publication of the Secondary Metals Compliance & Prosecution Guide. GFB will soon provide copies of this manual to all of its county Farm Bureau offices and encourages county Farm Bureau leaders to meet with their local law enforcement and metal recyclers in their area to discuss ways they can work together to fight metal theft in their communities.