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Reward offered in copper thefts

Photo by Brian Giandelone

Photo by Brian Giandelone

CONYERS -- The Conyers Police Department is offering a cash reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for a string of copper thefts.

Police issued an alert Friday afternoon through the new Nixle communications system about an influx of burglars stealing copper from vacant homes. The wave of copper thefts is directly linked to the increased number of vacant homes, according to Conyers Police criminal investigations division commander Lt. Jackie Dunn.

"A lot of times (the houses) are in control of the bank, so there's no daily monitoring of it," Dunn said. "Since they are empty homes, we don't hear about it sometimes (until) months after it occurred."

And there is no specific place that is being targeted more than another.

"It's not only throughout the city, we see with our contacts with other agencies it is a metro-wide problem," Dunn said. "There is no trend pattern except it is in neighborhoods. And all of our neighborhoods have empty homes."

Friday's alert said thieves are also taking copper from basements, crawl spaces, walls and attics.

"Now they have gone from taking just the air conditioning units to breaking in the homes and cutting out the copper from the inside," Dunn said.

Authorities responded to a gas leak incident April 14 where the home's gas line had been cut so thieves could steal the copper. Friday's alert pointed out that the harmful fumes could have caused an explosion, putting nearby residents and homes in danger.

Police think the crimes are being committed by several people, not just one or two groups, according to Dunn.

"This is just a prevalent crime to do if you're going to do property crimes right now," Dunn said. "You will usually have a sign out front broadcasting that it's empty ... so it's not hard to find these locations."

Criminals are being compensated a little over $3 per pound for an estimated couple hundred pounds of stolen copper at recycle yards. But the damage is in the thousands of dollars.

In order to help stop the crimes, Dunn said offering a cash reward is worth it to the Conyers PD and the citizens. Police did not specify the amount of the cash award.

"Even if insurance does cover it (the damages), it's ultimately all of us absorbing the costs," Dunn said.

Residents were encouraged in Friday's alert to be aware of their surroundings and call 911 if they notice anything out the ordinary.

Anyone with information about these thefts or any other suspicious activity is asked to contact the Conyers Police Department at 770-483-6600. Tips with crime information can be left at 770-483-TIPS (8477) or online by clicking on "Anonymous Tips" on the city's website, www.conyersga.com.