COVINGTON -- Nothing seems to be sacred to thieves who have recently stolen high-dollar equipment from Salem Campground and the city of Covington thanks to the allure of copper components.
Management with Salem Campground, located at 3940 Salem Road, notified the Newton County Sheriff's Office Monday that an air conditioner valued at $10,000 was damaged when the copper was taken from the unit. On April 4, a city of Covington employee notified them that $11,000 worth of equipment was damaged when copper was removed from a sewer lift station facility at 10365 Covington Bypass.
The NCSO is looking into both cases and following what leads are available. According to NCSO Investigator Tyrone Oliver, however, they've found that prevention is the best cure for these kinds of thefts.
"During the winter months we had Operation Heavy Metal going. We teamed up with the city of Covington and did concentrated patrols around neighborhoods and recycling centers in an effort to suppress the copper thefts. It did work. The metal thefts did decrease during those periods," he said, adding that now they are regrouping and reassessing their impact and hope to come up with another approach.
"We didn't want to create a pattern and are hoping to do some things like getting the homeowners associations involved," he said. "It was a good team effort between the Sheriff's Office and CPD."
Now, the Sheriff's Office has employed the use of Response Teams created by Sheriff Ezell Brown, which uses officers not typically seen on the street. These officers are used rather than patrol officers so that there is no disruption of regular patrol duties.
Oliver said there were nine teams of four to five deputies each that patrol the streets Mondays through Fridays.
"We've been doing this since February and not only does it combat metal thefts, but other types of crime as well," Oliver said. "Personnel come from the Criminal Investigation Unit, Court Services, Warrant Division, the Crime Suppression Unit and the Detention Center. They're all certified officers who go out and ride neighborhoods to be a visible deterrent to crime," he said.