Gwinnett Police Cracking Down On Metal Thefts

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ATLANTA,None —

Gwinnett County wants to crack down on scrap-metal thefts as reports of stolen air-conditioning units skyrocket.

The county is studying if additional steps should be taken before someone can show up and sell scrap metal.

A similar process is already in effect in the precious-metals business.

Air-conditioning units stripped for copper are stacking up across Gwinnett County and Metro Atlanta.

Just last week thieves targeted several vacant homes around Lake Lucerne Road in Lilburn, police said.

"Whenever the price kind of spikes, combined with hard economic times, we see a lot of copper thefts,” Cpl. Jake Smith of the Gwinnett County Police Department said.

Police said thieves get quick cash recycling the metal.

That’s why county officials are considering adding steps to the process of selling scrap metal to recyclers.

Smith said for about a year, Gwinnett businesses that buy precious metals like gold, must follow a strict purchasing policy which includes photographing items, sellers, collect government-issued identification, fingerprints and entering it all into a database.

"It creates a database for the authorities so if there are any thefts reported that is instrumental information," Smith said. "They have already solved several cases simply based on this program."

Erin Wilichowski with Southeast Gold Buyers allowed Channel 2’s Kerry Kavanaugh into their Buford location to see the intake process.

"If the items are stolen and you sell to us, the authorities will catch you,” Wilichowski said.

She said the process does take longer, but she believes it's worth it.

Smith said the process might not be identical at recycling plants, but the goal would be the same.

"To keep people honest and hopefully to use as an investigative tool just like we do with pawn shops and precious-metal dealers,” Smith said.

Police hope it will give investigators another tool to solve crimes that a difficult to prevent.

Law enforcement is studying the feasibility of implementing the ordinance in the scrap-metal business.

They are trying to draft a proposal to present to county leaders.