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      Lawmakers hope to foil copper bandits

      COLUMBIA (WACH) -- It TMs become what officials call an epidemic in the Midlands copper theft and lawmakers are trying to do something about it.

      Currently HB 3660 passed the South Carolina House and is currently being held up in the senate. Lawmakers say they believe this bill will help reduce the amount of copper thefts.

      "We take out the cash incentive. We want it so that if somebody goes to steal copper out an air conditioner that they can't go immediately to recycling and get cash. They have to get their thumb print taken. They have to get their picture taken and they have to come in three days to pick up the cash," says SC Representative Todd Rutherford.

      Local law enforcement investigating hundreds of copper thefts just this year alone.

      Thieves steal copper from things like heating and air conditioning units then sell it to recycling companies.

      Insurance companies say churches seem to be a major target because many times churches are not open during the week.

      When a church gets hit it impacts their insurance company tremendously.

      Southern Mutual Church Insurance Company covers thirty- eight hundred churches in the Palmetto State.

      So far this year the insurance company has suffered seven hundred and seventy thousand dollars in copper theft loses.

      We try to talk to our churches about what they can do to protect themselves. Cage their units connect their alarm systems. A lot of churches have monitoring alarm systems, they don't know they can connect those alarm units to their heating and air conditioning units, says Rob Bates, Executive Vice President of Southern Mutual Church Insurance Company.

      The company expects two million dollars in copper theft loses by the end of the year as opposed to the one point two million dollars in loses last year.