RICHLAND COUNTY (WACH) -- Richland County officials are announcing, what they call, a "huge dent" in a recent outbreak of copper thefts.
Tuesday, deputies announced the arrests of 21-year-old Isaac Tucker, 24-year-old Pettis Carwin Jr. and 31-year-old Jerry Wider who were all involved in crimes relating to copper theft.
Investigators say Carwin has sold over 7,000 pounds of stolen copper since the beginning of the year.
Investigators also say Tucker caused around $1,500 in damage cope from an air conditioning unit at a home in Columbia. Wider was in the act of taking copper from a unit from a Columbia business when approached by deputies. They say Pettis fled into the woods leaving his vehicle behind. He was later arrested at his home.
"These individuals are out here day and night trolling around looking for metal and copper to steal," said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott.Related Stories... Deputies searching for copper thieves Law officers ask for help fighting copper theft Copper theft is on the rise in the Midlands
Over the past several years copper thefts have been on the rise because of an increase in metal prices. In Richland County, Lott says in 2008 387 cases of copper theft were reported. In 2010, deputies were called to investigate over 500 cases. So far in 2011 they've already seen 168 cases.
"We're going to get you, we're going to lock you up. Just because you think it's 30 dollars worth of copper that's a small crime that's being ignored, we're not going to ignore it," adds the Sheriff.
Lott offers some ways to help make sure this crime doesn't happen to you:
Install cameras Post No Trespassing signs Put up fencing or caging up Locking buildings securely at night Use florescent paint or engraving to personalize your copper Consider putting your company TMs logo the copper Use DATA DOTS Join a Crime Watch Neighborhood Association Start a Crime Watch Neighborhood Association Take advantage of the free services from the Richland County Sheriff TMs Department Community Action Team
The Richland County Sheriff's Department operates a special unit that deals only with copper related crimes.
Have you taken any steps to protect yourself from copper thieves? If so, leave a comment below to let us know. If not, are you concerned about the crime happening to you?