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Missing your A.C. unit? Copper thefts are still a hot topic

Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon speaks to the media on Thursday.

By Natalie Caula
ncaula@abcnews4.com

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Max Brannen manages a Mount Pleasant Sherwin-Williams store. Two summers ago, he found something was missing.

"I got here and didn't really realize it. It felt a little warm. We went and checked it out and lo and behold, both units were gone. We had to replace the units that were about $6,000 worth of units," Brannen said.

Cases like that one are a dime a dozen in the Lowcountry with air conditioning units often disappearing at the hands of copper thieves. But state lawmakers hope a new law will freeze the criminal trend.

Just last month a vacant building on Johnnie Dodds, next door to that Sherwin-Williams was stripped of its copper.

Police did charge a Mount Pleasant man in that case, Thomas J. Keller III, but police don't always make arrests.

"Copper thefts have plagued the state of South Carolina," Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon said.

Thursday Sheriff Cannon was happy to announce the new law meant to cut the cord on copper thefts and the new permitting process they would handle. It's supposed to keep thieves from making a buck on stolen metal by selling it to scrap yards.

Starting August 17th if you want to buy or sell copper you'll have to go the Charleston County Sheriff's Office and fill out a permit.

There will be two types of permits for sellers, a one year and a 48-hour permit. Those are free. Anyone buying copper will have to get a two-year permit for $200.

Sheriff Cannon says it's a small price to pay to cut off crooks.

"We will have at least some reduction where we can look to ensure these folks are legitimate in terms of how they came by the materials they are selling," Sheriff Cannon said.

Scrap yards will even have to change the way they do business and pay copper sellers by check instead of cash. Lawmakers and law enforcement leaders in the state say it's a major step. Victims like Brannen hope it will keep the crooks from copper.

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