Although some burglars might prefer gold or silver, these days another element seems to be catching the eyes of would-be thieves.
"Relatively new to the burglary scene is the theft of copper wire. The reason is simple - economics," Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said. "The escalating price of copper has made it a desirable target for burglars, especially in homes and businesses under construction."
Capt. Morris says the theft of copper tubing from churches and construction sites is adding to an ever-increasing burglary rate.
Although overall crime in the county decreased in 2006 by 3.9 percent, burglaries went up 15.8 percent.
"The increases in our burglary rate is directly attributed to crimes occurring at construction sites," Morris said.
On Feb. 21, the theft of copper wire from a heating and air conditioning unit was reported at Mount Olive Baptist Church for a second time.
Authorities say copper tubing can be sold in scrap yards for more than $1 a pound.
The trend apparently hasn't hit Harlem or Grovetown. Harlem Department of Public Safety Chief Jerry Baldwin said only one construction site theft was reported in 2006, and it didn't involve copper wire or tubing.
In Grovetown, several thefts from construction sites such as lumber and appliances were reported in 2006, but "it hasn't been a real big problem," Grovetown Department of Public Safety Chief A.L. Robinson said.
Despite the copper trend in the unincorporated parts of the county, several other crime categories have decreased.
The number of aggravated assaults in Columbia County dropped 9.1 percent from 44 in 2005 to 40 in 2006. There also were no murders in the county for the year.
In Grovetown, officials have reported a slight increase in their crime rate compared with 2005 in major felony cases.
The department tracks only major felonies that must be reported monthly to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. New software will allow the department to track all reports for 2007, Robinson said.
The city's number of calls for service, which include everything from barking dogs to traffic stops, rose 8 percent in 2006, from 11,122 in 2005 to 12,958 in 2006.
Robinson attributes population growth to the increase.
Harlem's number of calls for service dropped 9.5 percent from 5,873 in 2005 to 5,589 in 2006.
Baldwin attributes the drop to officers being more visible in the community.
"They get out there and do foot patrols. They are very active in terms of house watches and house checks," he said.
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