COVINGTON ---- The Newton County Sheriff's Office and the Covington Police Department are getting tough on copper thieves. They've formed a joint agency coalition called the Heavy Metal Task Force to fight the problem of air conditioning system thefts.
Both agencies have documented a record number of calls regarding the theft of air conditioning units and their parts, copper and other metals.
"It's a problem for both the city and the county and we're joining forces to better address this issue," said CPD Capt. Ken Malcom. "We feel like we can have a greater impact on copper thieves by working together and having the additional manpower."
Thefts of air conditioning systems, both outside and inside homes, have plagued local law enforcement in recent months. Most thefts seem to occur at vacant homes which are easy prey for thieves who go under houses, into the attics and tear down walls in order to garner the metal which currently sells at a high premium.
However, the price they receive for the metal is nothing compared to the damage they inflict when stealing an air conditioner from a homeowner or a church, said NCSO spokesman Lt. Mark Mitchell.
"The end definitely does not justify the means in this case," he said. "We're going to do what we can to stop it."
Sheriff Ezell Brown said the initiation of the task force is "in response to this ongoing crime that stresses the resources of each agency and the citizens we serve Our community members, churches and business are experiencing great financial loss to replace or repair air conditioning and plumbing systems during these tough financial times."
Malcom said he believes that most of the perpetrators simply ride around and look for unoccupied homes or businesses, but now the task force will be out in force looking for them. "The task force will conduct very intense patrols in both the city and the county in an attempt to deter, detect and apprehend the actors of these crimes who steal and damage hard-working citizens' homes for copper and air conditioning parts," Mitchell said.