“If it’s not tied down or bolted down, someone will steal it,” Griffin Board of Commissioners member Doug Hollberg said.
He is in the rental property business and several of his properties have been targeted by thieves. He said they’ve torn copper electrical wires out of the walls.
Commissioner Dick Morrow reports that he too has been victimized by thefts.
“I personally have had eight air conditioner compressors stolen,” he said.
He said high copper prices have made the compressors attractive to thieves, who often steal to get money to pay for a drug habit.
“Previously thefts were fenced at pawn shops,” he said.
Metal thieves, however, take their stolen goods to metal-recycling and scrap-metal companies.
Morrow fears that the local government may overreact in its efforts to stop metal theft. At Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners workshop, he opposed regulations intended to fight against metal theft until they were tabled for further revision. Morrow said the way the law was written, it targeted any business that purchased items from any person for resale.
“I didn’t want all those businesspeople (secondhand shops, antique stores and thrift stores) to be swept up in this draconian new set of rules,” he said.
He wanted the law rewritten so it applied only to scrap-metal dealers and pawn shops.
Morrow also had concerns about identity theft.
“Part of the law was you had to give them (the scrap-metal dealers) all your information,” he said.
This includes date of birth, fingerprint, height, weight, driver’s license number and, most significantly, Social Security number.
“That would give someone everything they needed to steal your identity,” he said.
City Attorney Drew Whalen is revising the law to include Morrow’s concerns.
“We were just going to pull the provision that applied to precious metals and gems,” he said, limiting the laws to antique dealers and pawn shops.
However, it still includes the requirement that would-be sellers provide their Social Security numbers.
Griffin Police Department Maj. Terry Brock said such regulations are necessary to deal with the growing problem of metal theft.
“I think it (the proposed regulation) would be beneficial to the city and would definitely be better for law enforcement,” he said.
He said the rules would help the police track metal thieves, particularly the requirement to get fingerprints.
“It’s easy to get a fake ID,” he said when informed that Blaze Metals and local antique shops require driver’s licenses.
He said the fingerprint would be more reliable.
“The pawn shops already do it,” Brock said. “To be honest, if you’ve got a legal business, you shouldn’t mind it.”
He discounted the danger of identity theft, saying that making purchases online or using a credit or debit card would be just as dangerous.
Jan Rice, who owns Jan’s Used Furniture on Solomon Street, said her store does not buy many items from individuals.
She said that when an individual interested in selling the store something comes by, she makes the seller sign a receipt and examines the seller’s driver’s license to verify the seller’s identity.
“If we purchase something from somebody off the street, we require name, address, phone number and driver’s license if available,” said Phyllis Brinson, who owns Antique Griffin on Taylor Street.
Prospective sellers are also required to sign a statement verifying that the items are theirs to sell. She bases her guidelines on advice from the Griffin Police Department, to protect herself in the event she accidentally purchases a stolen item.
“If we are suspicious of them, we will not buy from them,” she said. “If it’s a young person and we suspect they are selling their parents’ or grandparents’ items, we will contact the owners to verify that the items are for sale.”
She said she believes her information collection is adequate.