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Murphy works to stop metal theft
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Forsyth County News
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State Sen. Jack Murphy and the Public Safety Committee are cracking down on metal thefts in Georgia.

Murphy, a Cumming Republican who chairs the committee, recently announced the formation of the Stop Metal Theft Task Force to fight the rising problem of metals being taken from homes, cars and graveyards.

"Metal theft is a widespread problem in Georgia and other states across the nation," Murphy said. "Thefts increase during downturns in the economy, and this situation is quickly escalating to a crisis.  

"Home builders and vehicle owners are particularly at risk and we must do everything we can to help prevent more crimes."

State Sen. Seth Harp, R-Midland, proposed the two bills to help curb theft and extend the punishment for those found guilty of theft.

Harp said in a statement that the legislation would "strengthen our laws and shut this black market down."

"We must stop those who prey upon the vulnerability of others and protect our communities," he said.

Murphy said the bills would allow law enforcement to seize vehicles and tools used during such thefts, in addition to creating a registry of metal thieves.

The legislation, Murphy said, would also authorize the governor to appoint special officers.

"[The officers] would be assigned to some of these recycling units to go around and check them and see if they can get a handle on where these thefts are coming from, go after these thieves and send them to jail," he said.

Murphy said the legislation follows a crackdown in Macon, where officers sent to recycling centers were credited with an 80 percent drop in metal theft.

Despite Macon's success, Murphy, a co-sponsor on both bills, expects a 30 to 50 percent decrease statewide as a result of the legislation.

"We tried increasing the fines, but that hasn't slowed it down much," Murphy said.

Forsyth County is struggling just as much as the state, especially with all the residential developments, Murphy said.

"With some of these subdivisions where the houses are staying empty, it's become a huge problem and it's become a huge burden," he said.

The Atlanta Region Stop Metal Theft Task Force is modeled after the Macon-Middle Georgia Theft Committee, which has received national acclaim for its success in reducing metal thefts since late 2006.

The system allows a business to provide task force administrators with detailed information on stolen materials.

The alerts will put recyclers on notice that the missing items have been stolen. Buyers risk prosecution if they knowingly purchase stolen materials.