The scrap metal dealers and recyclers in Griffin and Spalding County say they are doing their best to assist law enforcement in preventing metal theft.
Craig Blaze, co-owner and chief executive officer of Blaze Recycling, said he follows the state law governing “secondary metal recyclers,” those who buy scrap metal for reprocessing.
“We follow the bill to the letter of the law,” he said.
He also said Blaze goes above and beyond the state law.
For example, he said Blaze forwards the VIN numbers of automobiles brought to the company’s facility to the city of Griffin on a daily basis and takes photos of the purchased vehicles in the event they are crushed prior to the arrival of law enforcement.
He said his company, over the next few months, will begin photographing non-ferrous metals that are brought in for purchase, something the Griffin city ordinance requires.
He also said Blaze Recycling has an open-door policy as far as law enforcement is concerned.
“Law enforcement can come into the facility at any time,” he said. If they’re suspicious of a particular product, they can put a 15-day hold on the product while they conduct an investigation.
He also said there are some items the business will not take.
“We know more than likely they’re probably stolen, so we just don’t buy them,” he said.
He said when someone shows up at Blaze Recycling with brass letters and urns - which Blaze does not take without a letter from a funeral home - employees will try to delay the prospective seller until police arrive and, failing that, buy the material for a low price and immediately inform law enforcement.
Tim Summers, son of Sweet Returns Recycling owner Gordon Summers, said his company always cooperates with authorities.
“We cooperate with them whenever they come in,” he said.
He said Sweet Returns requires ID from sellers, so if police have a description of a suspected thief, they can see if the suspect has been there. They also have a means of tracking inventory, so if police are looking for, say, 100 pounds of copper, they can see if they’ve got it there.
Jerry Mendenhall, owner of Bare Metals, said his company has a computerized means of recording sellers.
“We’ve put in a computer system that IDs everybody and takes pictures of them and fingerprints everybody,” he said.
Linda Birdsong, manager of Bare Metals, said the computer keeps track of the sellers and everything they sell. The records go to a database in Houston and the city can see everything the company buys every day.
She said Bare Metals has been cooperative with the city.
“If you interview the county and city, you’ll find we work closer with them than anybody,” she said.
Bryan Clanton, of the Griffin Police Department Office of Professional Standards, said he has heard nothing but good things about the local metal dealers.
“The investigators I’ve spoken with have praised them for the level of cooperation they have provided,” he said.
The investigators’ reports were that “it was all positive,” he said.
“For the most part, we get cooperation,” said Capt. Tony Ranieri of the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office. “The only problem that we have is, up until the city got their ordinance passed, nobody kept any records” of people who brought in the materials to sell.
Ranieri said in most of the cases involving stolen copper, the thieves would break up the copper before taking it to the metal dealers, so it was difficult for investigators to find what had been stolen.
This, he said, was a major reason that most copper thefts - except for incidents where the thieves were caught in the act - went unsolved.
Now that the city has passed its ordinance and the final reading of the county ordinance is coming up soon, he said the situation should become easier.