Copper theft is on the rise in the Midlands

LEXINGTON COUNTY (WACH) -- Thieves are taking everything from air conditioning units to plumbing and recently picked up their pace.

It seems like we go through spurts, says Maj. John Allard, where we will have quite a few in a relatively short period of time.

The Lexington County Sheriff's Department investigated 17 copper thefts this year.

Allard believes the near-record price for the precious metal which is selling around $4 a pound, is responsible for the increase in heft of common items, like wiring.

In Richland County, thieves are a costly nuisance to 160 businesses, churches and residents in the past six months.

The problem is proving to be difficult to stop. By the time a report is filed and an investigation is underway, the stolen copper has already been recycled in most cases, according to authorities.

There is definitely a need I think to have some kind of log that law enforcement would have access to, Allard adds.

The South Carolina General Assembly has discussed passing a law that would regulate the sale of copper and other materials sold to scrap yards.

Several other states have already enacted similar legislation.

Even though there is no perfect solution to copper theft, officials offer these suggestions:

- Install an alarm system or security camera.

- Make sure your property is well lit.

- Add a fence or protective barrier around your air conditioning unit.