NEWBERRY COUNTY, SC (WIS) - A rise in scrap metal and tractor thefts has motivated Newberry County Sheriff Lee Foster to change the way his investigators patrol for and respond to this growing problem.
Foster said Friday that law enforcement is seeing a dramatic increase in the number of thefts of recyclable metals because of very difficult economy and that metal prices have reached near record prices.
Deputies made two arrests on Tuesday for metal thefts. Foster says Kenneth Braswell, 34, and Joey Shaw, 33, were apprehended when a deputy saw them trespassing on someone else's property and taking scrap metal from their yard.
Foster said that deputies and investigators are making a concentrated effort to stop these thefts by a proactive patrol and by hard follow up investigations when the cases are reported. "We are taking a hard line about these thefts and it is our intent to try to stem the tide of these thefts seemingly driven by the economy at hand," said Foster.
Thefts of tractors, 4-wheelers and other equipment are also on the rise, according to Foster. The sheriff said people are having a hard time affording them, so they're stealing them. Criminals then sell the items to someone looking for a "deal."
"I want to assure the victims of these crimes and the citizens of Newberry County that we are being proactive in the growing trend," said Foster. "To be truly effective in law enforcement, we must begin to understand the crime trends and respond to them. We are adjusting our patrols and procedures to respond to this trend and protect the property of our citizens."
Sheriff Foster said that officers will use traditional patrols, undercover techniques and high tech equipment to increase the likelihood of stopping the thefts and apprehending those who commit such crimes.
Sheriff Foster offered some tips for avoiding becoming a victim of these type crimes
- Do not leave scrap metal lying in plain view or with easy access.
- Never leave tractors, lawn mowers, or 4 wheelers in plain view or with easy access.
- When possible put the metal or tractor into a shed and lock it.
- Watch out for your neighbor and have your neighbor watch out for you.
- Make sure that you keep the serial number and relevant information about tractors or other equipment.
- Mark any metal with paint or some permanent markings.
"We hope that this information will help prevent people from becoming victims of crime," said Foster. "It is also very imperative that if anyone sees something unusual or suspicious that they contact law enforcement right away. While we are making every effort to more proactive, it is simply impossible for law enforcement to be everywhere. We need people in the community to be our eyes and ears as we work together to stop these thefts."
Foster said that if you did see unusual activity that you should never confront the person, but should call 911 immediately. Foster said these thieves can be desperate and dangerous and encouraged everyone to allow law enforcement to make any approach of confrontation of the suspects.
The Sheriff also said that officers would also be enforcing South Carolina Code 16-17-685 which makes it illegal to transport more than 25 pounds of non-ferrous metals (non-ferrous means not having significant quantities of lead or steel), such as copper and aluminum, without a permit issued by the Sheriff's Office.
If you have any information about this case, please contact the Newberry County Sheriff's Office at (803) 321-2222 or www.newberrycountysheriff.com.
You can also contact Crime Stoppers at 1-888-CrimeSC, www.sccrimestoppers.com or text your tip to "TIPSC plus your message" to CRIMES (274637).