Horry County Sheriff's Office: permits cut down copper theft

CONWAY, SC (WMBF)- Officers from the  Horry County Sheriff's office say permits are helping to cut down on the number of copper thefts in our area. Both those buying and selling copper are required by law to get permits so police can make sure people are not selling stolen copper.

Businesses like Don's Car Crushing are careful to check for permits before buying copper. Owner Clay Thomas said, "Once they get into the warehouse the guys will take a look at what they've got, determine if they've got copper then they go through the process...ask them a couple questions like do you have a permit."

For many, selling copper has become big business. Thomas added, "More people are aware of this money laying around in what we call scrap copper but instead of leaving it around they can put $12-18 bucks in their pocket."

Corporal Steve Causey works in the Investigative division of the Horry County Sheriff's office and he said there has been a decrease in copper thefts now that 12 month and 48 hour permits are in place.

Causey stated, "It gives us a good tool to track people with...to find out who is out there buying and selling. It gives us a good tool to coordinate with the recyclers and law enforcement."

Corporal Causey said there have been arrests made due to the tracking process. Causey added, "We've made four arrests with people using permits to sell stolen items, but it's helped us many times before it gets to the point of being stolen when they have an idea of who it was, a vehicle description."

Kenneth Bellamy is one of more than 6,000 people who sell copper to get a little extra cash and he has a permit so he can strike a deal. Bellamy said, "Everybody's doing it because times are hard. A lot of people were going out and stealing units from homes and people come home and their units were gone so that's the reason for the permits thing came up so they can verify if it's been given to you or if you stole it."

There are three officers who are dedicated to working on the application and investigation of the permits. The total as of today is about 6,700 permits. Right now officers are not sure if the number of permits will continue to climb after the 12 month permits run out at the end of this year.

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